A photo of the actor Leonardo Dicaprio as Jay Gatsby holding up a celebratory glass of champagne
"Tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther."

Today is the 20th birthday of the RSS Advisory Board, the group that publishes the RSS specification. It was formed on July 18, 2003, when the copyright of the specification was transferred to Harvard University, which immediately released it under a Creative Commons license and deferred all matters related to RSS to the new board.

At the time of the board's launch, here's how the founding members described its purpose:

Is the advisory board a standards body?

No. It will not create new formats and protocols. It will encourage and help developers who wish to use RSS 2.0. Since the format is extensible, there are many ways to add to it, while remaining compatible with the RSS 2.0 specification. We will help people who wish to do so.

What does the advisory board actually do?

We answer questions, write tech notes, advocate for RSS, make minor changes to the spec per the roadmap, help people use the technology, maintain a directory of compatible applications, accept contributions from community members, and otherwise do what we can to help people and organizations be successful with RSS.

This remains the purpose 140 dog years later. In addition to maintaining the current RSS specification, we are the official publisher of Netscape's RSS 0.90 and RSS 0.91 specifications and Yahoo's Media RSS specification.

We also offer an RSS Validator and RSS Best Practices Profile containing our recommendations for how to implement the format.

There's a resurgence of interest in RSS today as people discover the exhilarating freedom of the open web. Some of this is due to dissatisfaction with deleterious changes at big social sites like Twitter and Reddit. Some is due to satisfaction with Mastodon, a decentralized social network owned by nobody with more than one million active users. As long as there are social media gatekeepers using engagement algorithms to decide what you can and can't see, there will be a need to get around them. When someone offers an RSS or Atom feed and you subscribe to it in a reader, you get their latest updates without manipulation.

Here's to another 20 years of feeding readers, unlocking gates, helping developers adopt RSS and repeatedly getting asked the question, "Can an RSS item contain more than one enclosure?"



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