March 9, 2004 4:35 PM PST

Blog format truce proposed

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In an attempt to lasso support from Google, a key proponent of the syndication format RSS has proposed that it merge with its challenger under the auspices of an Internet standards body.

Dave Winer, a fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School who is commonly considered the arbiter of the RSS (Really Simple Syndication) format, proposed on his Scripting.com Web log that the format could merge with Atom, a competitor launched in the summer.

"It's time to put our differences behind us and start working together," said Winer. "I want Google to start offering RSS feeds and I want Six Apart to do the same thing with Moveable Type. That's what I want--it's not about the processes or anything like that."

Google gave Atom a big boost--and RSS a black eye--last month when the company's Blogger unit said it would support Atom syndication feeds.

RSS and Atom do essentially the same thing, permitting publishers of Web logs, news and other Web content to offer syndication feeds to other Web sites. RSS has a long list of backers, which includes Apple Computer and News.com publisher CNET Networks. Google and Six Apart are among Atom's supporters.

The two technologies would not be hard to merge, according to backers. A high priority for Winer and other RSS backers would be to make the new format backward-compatible with RSS feeds.

The work of merging them would likely happen within the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). Atom partisans are hoping to have a working group established at the standards body's August meeting in San Diego.

Sam Ruby, an IBM software engineer who launched Atom last summer as a way of bypassing what he and other critics called Winer's de facto control over RSS, appeared receptive to the idea.

"As long as it's under the IETF, it's fine," said Ruby. "The IETF has a good history of dealing with personality disputes of all types, and I imagine we'll work through them."

Some Web sites are already taking a catholic approach on syndication formats. Yahoo, for instance, lets people add both RSS and Atom feeds to their My Yahoo news lineups.

"We're moving to develop our RSS reader in such a way that consumers can add all the content they deem important to them," a Yahoo representative said. "We support RSS and Atom, because we want to make it as easy as possible for consumers to pull in the feeds that they want."

 

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