I can’t believe that Google is letting Mark Pilgrim do their talking for them. Pilgrim is quoted as saying essentially that Dave Winer opposes Atom because “Open standards benefit everyone but [him].” There is so much that is so incredibly wrong in this statement that it’s hard to know where to begin. For reference here is the Perens definition of Open Standards. It would be useful to understand how exactly RSS fails to meet these standards. If you believe there is bona-fide discrimination going on, as opposed to, say, personal opinions about how to protect RSS from businesses with well-documented histories of predatory behavior (businesses that are much, much larger than Userland or Six Apart or Feedster), get specific about it so that we’re all on the same page. As for Winer’s rep or intentions, Mark shouldn’t need reminding about the existence of SOAP, OPML, XML-RPC, metaWeblogAPI and Weblogs.Com. A lot of blood, sweat and tears went into these standards and services. A lot of software running on a lot of different platforms runs compatibly with them. Open source projects are built on them. Products are built on them. Companies are built on them. As far as I know, nobody has ever been asked to pay, much less paid, to use any of these standards and services. Their existence makes the Internet a vastly more interesting and profitable place to work. Maybe there are control and process issues with RSS—more likely there are misunderstandings about them—but please let’s not confuse things by intentionally mis-labelling them as closedness and greed. That’s just plain evil. I could wring my hands I suppose, but in the end if Mark has some grudge to bear there really isn’t much I can do about it. What I don’t understand is how in full grudge-bearing mode he became the public face of Google’s syndication grab. Mark may be a convenient bag man but Google really needs to explain itself. Meaningless, evasive claims (“Google is not taking anything away”) by faceless representatives are not good enough.

18 thoughts on “”

  1. Uh, it’s quite clear to anyone who can read that Pilgrim is speaking for himself and not for Google. Or what part of “. . .Atom partisans lauded Google’s move” and “Mark Pilgrim, an early contributor to Atom” didn’t you understand?

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  2. Brian: I don’t mean literally. Google made a decision that affects everyone who has a stake in RSS, users and programmers alike. Google hasn’t said anything meaningful to support that decision. The only voice presented seems to be Mark’s, and I believe the “open standards” line he’s pushing unfairly implies that Userland’s contributions are somehow “closed” and is a euphemism for something else (though I’m not sure exactly what).

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  3. I can understand why RSS implementors want to keep things as they are. But the nature of anything that is “open”, is to change over time.

    Nobody owns something that is “open”. There may be agreement by the majority that some things need to be a certain way, but there is no force of law behind those that would prevent someone else from using a new extension or format.

    I think good-intentioned people promote something as “open” to help spread the effort and allow others to assist in the cause. It is an interesting observation that once somebody wants to change a part of what is “open”, people come out of the wood-work essentially yelling, “mine, mine, mine!”

    I don’t think people can get an “open-patent” that forces everyone else to play the same way. You can make something proprietary and force acceptance. Some of these discussions seem to be describing the latter, not the former.

    Don

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  4. “notdave”: Userland doesn’t need speaking for. Remember, they’re the ones who developed a bunch of stuff and gave it away. They’re the ones that helped created the market in which Google is now dabbling.

    But if you really think this is apples for apples, I tell you what: When Google goes public, buy some shares. I’ll see if I can convince Dave to sell me an equivalent percentage of Userland. Then we’ll trade. Sound good?

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  5. It’s kind of odd to watch Dave Winer complaining about the way the press misrepresents people, only to link approvingly to a piece which assumes Google had control over what News.com publishes.

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  6. Bryant,

    I’m hesitant to expand on this thread as a new tangent, but I have been thinking a lot about webloggers and the press lately.

    The curiosity I have is that I thought one of the ideas of having weblogs and RSS was to create and publish our points of view to route around a press that didn’t cover the news the way “we” wanted. I mean, we knew the press acted preferentially in the first place.

    I find it stunning that in this election year, webloggers are harping on why the press doesn’t cover their candidate fairly or from their point of view. Duh!

    I think webbloggers should try to change the world if they want to. Don’t expect too much support from the status quo in the process. Bitching about the status quo when you can’t do anything about it just illustrates how weak the advocate really is. It seems to me that the advocates should just keep on working for their voice to be heard via the ways they have control over.

    Don

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  7. I’m not sure it’s a case of Google “letting Mark Pilgrim do their talking for them”– It’s been well documented that Paul Festa is a lazy “Journalist”.

    He probably ran into the same wall that everyone else is in getting an answer from Google, and decided instead to further sensationalize the Mark Vs. Dave angle.

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  8. Google was interviewed for that News.Com piece. They chose not to comment on the record. While the company has nothing to do with Mark Pilgrim, they ought to be able to read that piece and recognize the risk of being associated with his kind of advocacy.

    In that article, Pilgrim’s misleading people about RSS when he calls it a closed, vendor-controlled format. He knows that the RSS 2.0 specification’s three-person board is made up of a tech journalist (Jon Udell) and a vendor of RSS- and Atom-supporting software (Brent Simmons) in addition to Winer. He knows that the existence of RSS 1.0 demonstrates that the board doesn’t own anything beyond a specification copyright — licensed under Creative Commons no less — and a bully pulpit.

    I’m tired of Pilgrim smearing the integrity of the people shepherding RSS 2.0 by claiming they’re scheming for some kind of competitive advantage. If Atom’s so great, and I have every confidence that the project is terrific, he’s actively working against its adoption every time he spouts off these falsehoods.

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  9. I know this will continue until the end of time, but it’s worth repeating.

    We wouldn’t be having this discussion if, in January-June 2000, we’d had an open working group who added namespaces to RSS.

    We wouldn’t be having this discussion if, in January-June 2003, we’d had an open working group who acknowledged and addressed rather small issues in format and direction. (Noting a very key point that had Atom come from the RSS 1.0 direction, we *would* still be having this conversation, regardless.)

    In a few weeks or months there will be an even more open syndication working group and next year we will still be having this asinine discussion.

    RSS is as open as NFS, GIF, and Java. Atom (and RSS 1.0) is as open as Coda, PNG, and Python. My Amiga is still better than your Atari and this conversation is just about as enlightening as that one was.

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  10. Ken, my aggregator reads RSS 1.0 and 2.0, it’ll read Atom too, 0.3, 0.4, 0.5, etc etc, all versions, Google’s, Movable’s. I hope Google doesn’t come out wiht a version that my aggregator can’t read. I’m pretty sure they can’t do that with RSS. Whne they make so much of grudges my nose gets itchy, doesn’t smell right, don’t pass the sniff test, why does Google, a big company, care so much about personalities. It’s fascinating to hear they do, thanks to M Pilgrim, because they don’t.

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  11. OPML 1.1 fails to be an open standard since there’s no formalised specification yet available for download.

    As to RSS 2.0, I misread “Open Standards are available for all to read and implement.” as “Open Standards are available for all to read and implement _successfully_.” BTW – what happened to your working group ( http://www.cadenhead.org/workbench/2003/06/28.html#a771 ) to remedy and clear up the problems of RSS2.0 specification? I take it the conversation happened somewhere outside the yahoo group ssf-dev?

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