On July 15, 2003, UserLand Software transferred ownership of its RSS 2.0 specification to the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School.

UserLand is a leading developer of tools that produce and consume RSS and originator of the RSS 2.0 specification.

The specification is now licensed under terms that allow it to be customized, excerpted and republished using the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike license.

The UserLand disclaimer and copyright is archived here; however it now no longer applies to the RSS 2.0 specification.

Since UserLand specifically disclaimed ownership of the format that the specification describes, no transfer took place on the format itself.

An independent advisory board has been formed to broaden the public understanding of the uses and benefits of RSS and to guide developers who create RSS applications. The initial members of the board are Dave Winer, Berkman fellow and author of the RSS 2.0 spec; Jon Udell, lead analyst for InfoWorld and columnist for the O'Reilly Network; and Brent Simmons of Ranchero Software, author of NetNewsWire, a leading RSS-based application.

A new website has been launched (this one) for the board.

Comments, questions and suggestions are welcome.


A few notes:

1. Usage nit -- in the first sentence of the second paragraph, I think it needs to be "via the Attribution/Share Alike Creative Commons license." It's probably a typo, a dropped word.

2. "Since UserLand specifically disclaimed ownership of the format that the specification describes, no transfer took place on the format itself." Which begs the question -- who owns the format? (It's implied that nobody owns it, but it's worth making explicit.)

3. Typo -- "help developers create applications use RSS 2.0" -- I think there's a dropped "that" before "use."

4. "No one has to follow its advice. Its only power is to advise and advocate." At first I was unclear on whether this referred to Berkman or the advisory group. "No one has to follow the advice of the board" or something like that might be more clear.

Dave, Brent, Jon and All:

Thank you.  An elegant solution worthy of cooperation.

What more can be said?


Steve Kirks


Dave, great move.

Does any of the independent advisory board own stock in UserLand? That disclosure would be interesting and would shed some light on how independent the board really is.

Not sure if I understand the question. Do you mean do any of the members of the advisory board own stock in UserLand?

Although I'm more of a lurker in the blog community at the moment, I do read frequently. It seems to me that this "independant" board isn't really so independant after all. Two of the members are former UserLand employees. A truly independant board (assuming it MUST include DW) would at least include one member of the community on the other side of the issue. At this point, it basically appears as if Dave has appointed a couple of his patsies to serve as puppets so that the status quo can continue while operating under the auspices of independant governance. Nothing to see here...


1. Dave, thank you. Your gift could be called an endowment to the foundation of RSS.

2. Bill's post above has a point. Full disclosure as appropriate.

3. Are their criteria for adding/subtracting board members?

4. How can you harness the creative energy around Atom/n-echo/echo toward RSS 2.0?

5. What's Scoble like in "real life"?




Yes, it's a common question that should be asked of all "independent" advisory boards.

Cameron's comments appeared as I was posting mine...

I'm disappointed that so many people in today's "online/instant gratification" society can not make a comment without resorting to an insult. Cameron, read Bill's post. It makes a similar point without a personal insult. Your comments are valid and deserve to be heard without the side order of personal invective.


Though Brent Simmons is a former employee of UserLand, he is currently the lead developer of NetNewsWire, RSS 2.0-using news aggregation and weblog publishing software that competes with Radio UserLand.

Anyone who would call him a "patsy" for UserLand is obviously completely unfamiliar with the guy. I'm confident in his independence and that of Jon Udell.

I just realized that Udell's also being described as a "patsy." Sheesh. Go back to lurking.

I think Cameron's point is spot on. If we saw an independent compliance board that oversaw Microsoft made up entirely of Microsoft employees (or former ones), we'd question the independence of that board. Oh wait, that's exactly what Microsoft has and that's exactly the charge that's been raised.

You've transferred control of RSS from you to a law center at Harvard to be advised by you. Seeing as how you're a Berkman Fellow, the rest of the Berkmanites will depend on the advisory board's advice, the other two members of the board aren't across the hall so to speak, and the board has very favorable opinions of you and UserLand, I'd say this reeks of business as usual.

Le plus ça change, le plus c'est la même chose

And I definitely don't think that either Simmons or Udell are puppets for Dave. They're just not as accessible as Dave and probably much busier with other projects.

Cameron, on the other side of what issue?

Bill, as you probably know, I own lots of UserLand stock. I'll make sure that Brent knows that you would like him to make a disclosure about this.

Bill: Valid Point in post "I think Cameron's point..."

Cameron: *That's* how you make a point. Examples, fact and sentences with clearly-defined objects will engage a reader every time.

Bill--to address your issue, I agree. That's why I'm looking for an answer to Number 3 in my original comment.


Also, I know it must seem like you can never win, Dave, or that there's no pleasing us people. I think that's an understandable sentiment.

However, it would have been easy enough to relinquish full control over the process in such a way as to write yourself out of the equation like you said you were going to in a recent Scripting News entry. You could have set up a board of people with little connection to you or UserLand and said, "Run with it." Then when they went in directions you didn't want, you would have proved the board's independence.

As it stands now, I think this will just reinforce the goals of the Echo project.

This makes sense, and could help defuse some of the tensions here.

You'll need to decide soon whether you really want the advisory board to be this small (and agile), and how it future members will be appointed. You need, in short, a structure. Boring, but it will solve trouble down the road.

I also think you need one person with strong computer science chops. A theory person, perhaps an academic, could help make sure the standard stays clean in theory. (I have some suggestions that I'll send offline)

Okay, I think the naysayers have had their say. Is it too much to hope that you'll leave a little room for people who may want to help or think this is a good idea? In any case, I'm satisfied that we've taken a huge step in addressing the issues raised by people with serious concerns. We've had this idea vetted by lots of skeptics before we announced. Stay tuned as other people decide what they're going to do now that it's clear that they've been listened to, and responded to.

Holy Shit, Fuck, and Goddamn.

You are truly amazing. I love it. Everyone giving you static about RSS and who owns, and blah blah blah, "Dave's the big Ogre of development..." etc etc bullshit bullshit bullshit. And you just fucking throw down the trump card like, "Yeah, well suck a dick because what are you going to complain about now." I'm exaggerating there, I know that's not your style or attitude.

Dave, really, I just can't tell you how cool this is. You being brave enough to just step up into everyone's face and prove that you're are one of the Good Guys, your total courage and integrity about sticking to your guns and defending RSS all the while being totally nice and cool about it. Your tacit approval and support of (n)Echo/Atom. Your love, sweat, tears, etc... about the weblogging, the community, and bootstrapping the whole western world into an online universe where we can all write to one another telling our stories and dreams. I don't know man. I just totally respect you. I respect all of the weblog dev teams out there, Six Apart, Blogger etc...

But you are completely in a class by yourself.

"I'm in awe of you..."Bobby, The Sopranos

Humbly, RespectfullyPat RockBecause really what would be the point of appointing people who didn't have a part of, and an understanding of the vision?

Don't worry about it, it will iterate away from the initial appointees, but for now lets let RSS be shepherded by people who care about it.www.aquadoodiloop.com

PS, and to all the haters who are saying, "All Dave did was appoint friends." How about saying, "All Dave did was appoint people who love and care about RSS and what it means."

Because really what would be the point of appointing people who didn't have a part of, and an understanding of the vision?

Don't worry about it, it will iterate away from the initial appointees, but for now lets let RSS be shepherded by people who care about it.<>

Dave: I'm trying to help. I'm in favor of standards being governed by a standards body rather than one interested party. I think you're moving towards this, but it's still too close. I'm sorry you consider me a naysayer.

Bill, I'm glad you're trying to help. Thanks, no sarcasm. Anyway, the Advisory Board is not a standards body. That was specifically disclaimed in the FAQ for the Advisory Board.

Bill: Give the process a chance. The CreativeCommons licensing of the specification means that the only thing Berkman really owns is the right to call itself the copyright owner and be credited in derivative versions of the document.

Jon Udell is independent and has even written things regarding Echo and RSS that Dave took strong objection to on Scripting News.

Brent Simmons is one of the leading developers of RSS producing and consuming software.

How can Dave be accused of being in control of RSS 2.0 when he doesn't own the format, doesn't own the spec, and has a minority vote in an advisory board that doesn't own the format and gives anyone the right to reuse and modify the spec with attribution?

I would recommend a review of the decision to use the Attribution-ShareAlike license.

Background: I had originally commented on the license in response to the RSS political FAQ (comments no longer available) and read the followup discussion on what license to choose, but didn't comment there based on having made the original comment (I can't find the followup discussion right now).

The FAQ suggests the original RSS spec license was like the CC Attribution license. I commented that the IETF-like license was more like Attribution-NoDerivs with the added right to use unaltered portions of the work.

In the followup discussion, it was suggested that the original RSS license was more like Attribution-ShareAlike, to which Dave noted that he and Brent had come to the same conclusion.

The issue I see with Attribution-ShareAlike is that it allows derivatives to alter the intent and meaning of the work when they republish the work, in whole or in part (provided they give attribution to the original work and publish under identical terms).

I recommend looking again at an Attribution-NoDerivs license, with or without additional rights to use unaltered portions of the work, to prevent derivative works from altering the intent and meaning of the specification.

Update: For comparison, the W3C license (unlike the IETF/Oasis license above) is like Attribution-NoDerivs but specifically excluding using portions of the work.

It's good stuff, and it's a big step in the right direction. Might be a big enough step to take us all the way, and I kind of suspect it is. Full disclosure would be good, cause it always is. Process for changes in the board is important, but I don't need to see that process right this minute -- if we have process by the end of the year, that'd be cool.

Thanks, Dave.

The news on the copyright is good, though the main problem (for me at least) with copyright was that it effectively prevented anyone from making improvements. It isn't clear that this situation has changed.

I would appreciate clarification of "maintain the spec according to the roadmap" and "independent" (especially in light of earlier comments). In what respects are the opinions of the community represented by this "board"?

Basically, if this is more than an empty gesture for promotional purposes, then I would like an answer to this question : what in practice will this change?

Surprising as it may be, I'll be that the vast majority of bloggers and their feed-readers don't involve themselves so much with the behind-the-scenes gruntwork of how those feeds work, what makes them tick, and who or what makes the standard.

And that's the way it should be. Blogging took off, in my view, for two reasons:

1. People like to express themselves.2. People like things to be easy.

The various blogging tools that sprouted up made things easy. As easy as -- if not easier than -- viewing-source on early-html to figure out how the cool people were making their text BLINK like that :)

Some vocal people are concerned about RSS 2.0 and the direction it's heading. This latest move won't appease them, and I don't think anyone would really expect that to happen: Supporters of Dave's side will point to this as further evidence of his being the good guy. The folks who think RSS 2.0 is 'owned' by Dave and a lost-cause in terms of future expandability -- well, this shift in labels won't change their minds, for obvious reasons.

I fear that sometimes, in our quests to be trendsetters, or the arbiters of right and wrong, or whatever else keeps happening to the forward motion on topics like these... we keep losing site of the goal.

The goal is to make the web better, in this case for writers and readers. But we have to keep it simple. And simple means either politics-free (which is probably a pipe-dream), or to a place where the politics is so far removed that it doesn't have an effect on the masses (HTML / W3C/ etc.)

My two cents. Keep the change.

I think the board should include some of the RSS naysayers from the nEcho / Atom camp such as Sam Ruby, Mark Pilgrim or Joe Gregorio. Pull the community back together, don't force it apart. This currently looks like the license has moved, but its the same poeple at a different site.

Prove me wrong.

But why wouldn't we want them to be able to alter the intent?

What's the scenario that you're concerned about?

We also talked about this inside Berkman, a bit, but I'm afraid no one could forsee all the things people might want to do, so we opted for the most liberal license we could live with.

As long as the original lives somewhere, there's no question about what RSS 2.0 is. That's partially why having a solid validator is so important.

Dave, if this is OT, feel free to say so. I noticed one side effect of this move is to remove a core piece of the technology behind Userland products from their direct legal control. Is this a conscious move related to things happening at Userland? First we had John Robb leaving, then we had you heading to the west coast with vague references to Userland activities.

I understand the need to quasi-NDA things related to Userland until the right moment - and that Robb's mysterious blog disappearance can't just be a coincidence. Are you able to say anything about this yet?

Dave Winer says "An independent advisory board has been formed to promote the wider use of RSS, to maintain the spec according to the roadmap, and to remove one of the major objections, that only UserLand could answer questions about RSS"

So sorry, but this seems to miss two critical points: It's the ROADMAP that the Necho/Atom people object to ... nothing in this world can "become a unchanging thing" and live. Also, REAL standards don't need "advisory boards" to interpret what they mean, they are written in a an unambiguous language and reference a formal, machine processable definition (e.g. an XML schema of some sort). There's no such thing as "funky", an instance is either valid or it's not.

As a total outsider in the RSS/Atom world, my humble suggestion is that this would be a positive development with a few tweaks: Keep the advisory board as the arbiter of what RSS 2.0 really means ... but acknowledge that "RSS" has to evolve, and that the next generation will emerge from an open process potentially involving all people with expertise in the technology and the good will to work for the benefits that real standardization brings. To whatever extent Winer, Berkman, or the RSS AB "owns" the label "RSS", let it be known

With IETF, Oasis, and W3C specs, I feel comfortable knowing that wherever I read them they are the same as the original (discounting intentional fraud). Missing NoDerivs invites subtle alteration and clarification, even with good intention, and puts the reader in the position of cross-checking it with the original.

"The" spec, regardless of location and mirrors, is (should be) the final repository of decisions made by those in the position of making those decisions (the advisory board, in this case). Others may make drafts, suggest errata, or otherwise comment on the spec, but without the right to present those drafts, errata, or comments as the spec, it ensures those changes go back to the spec.

There will likely be many validators and other tools. Implementors often work in a manner of having to clarify thru working code what a specification really means. Without NoDerivs, they can post their own clarified specification and feel good about having discovered and "fixed" an edge case, well documented in their copy of the spec rather than pushed through to the original spec.

Still seems to me like the tail is still trying to wag the dog and this is just a transparent attempt to deflect criticism.

Unfreeze the spec and put some of the other players with a stake in the self-publishing world on the board, then we will have a competitive marketplace with an open standard.

Otherwise it is just tool lock-in under the guise of an "open" standard with a puppet board and by its nature will continue to create competitive frustration and confusion in the marketplace. In turn, RSS will continue to be under attack/threat by competing specs.

Congratulations Dave, I think this is a good move. Regardless of what happens with the Echo project, giving RSS a little forward motion again will produce favorable results for both users and developers. Simmons and Udell are great first choices for the advisory board (looking forward to hearing their thoughts soon).

My only suggestion would be to create some public forum where other members of the weblog community can participate in and discuss RSS issues, lead (to some extent) by the advisory board. Especially for those who have been been critical in the past, but who believe in RSS and also have a vision for what it could look like a few years from now.

RSS 2.0 is at a good point right now. What's needed is clarifications and minor tweaks to the spec, and steady, thoughtful progress for it's future.

Ken, you make some good points. But I think the benefit of having the more open license is outweighed by the potential problems you describe.

Validation is part of the answer, but it's also a human issue. Not everything has to be legislated through the license.

It's clear that Mr. Winer has relinquished some control of the format and is working on consensus building. Mr. Winer has chosen two people he respects to start a process. It is likely a process in evolution and the board may eventually have 5 or 7 members...hopefully not too many more than that. As all of us who have done some committee work, it is clear that the efficiency of committee work goes down as the numbers of members go up.

This should effectively remove concerns that every decision made re: RSS 2.0 is financially based.

As in most things, there is often more than one way to do things. My reading of Userland's support for ECHO is that there is they are willing to do just that...support more than one form of XML feed of syndicated content. I think that is understandable that they did not want to support more than one form of RSS. That is too confusing. If the world ends up as an ECHO world and an RSS 2.0 world that will probably be just fine for most folks. Choice is good.

Mr. Winer has a lot invested in RSS 2.0. I respect him for this decision, which gives up control he obviously cares about a great deal.

Thanks for all the hardwork. I will be putting out more articles on the Dotnetjunkies.com about RSS to help push the movement into developer's minds.

Steve: RE: "Cameron: *That's* how you make a point..."

Correction about invective taken. I'll be more careful in the future. My goal was not to besmirch Brent or John as much as it was to suggest that they were likely selected (Dave DID do the selecting all by himself I assume?) as people Dave believes to be likeminded. As for examples, I thought "two former employees" was pretty clearly defined. As for stock holdings, etc, I think that is beside the point. My primary point is that the oversight will largely remain in DW's hands. In light of that, and the additional points made by Bill B. and others, I will say that I am at least mildly insulted that we would be expected to view this as a change for the positive...when in fact it appears to be an attempt at misdirection to create the impression of independance.

Dave: Clearly this move to a pseudo-independant management of RSS has been made in response to the recent rumblings and machinations of the Echo/Pie/Whatchamacallit camp. It seems well established that there is an RSS vs. Echo/Pie vibe. "On the other side" would tend to refer to someone that represents the side believing that significant change is in order. I guess at this point, I would suggest that you are SO biased (isn't that the crux of the issue here...one man's apparent control of the format by FUD) that in a group so small, an oppositely biased participant should be included...at least if we're going to pretend it's independant.

I DO, however, imagine that most tools will end up supporting RSS and whatever alternative is developed.

I'll keep my remaining cynical speculations about this move to myself for the moment...


Cameron: Yet again, your comments are spot on.

Dave: Why not add Sam Ruby, Tim Bray or another (albeit willing) active participant of Atom project?

Michael Bernstein wrote:

I also think you need one person with strong computer science chops. A theory person, perhaps an academic, could help make sure the standard stays clean in theory.

My comment:

I think Jon Udell and Brent Simmons have more computer science chops than a whole roomful of academics :-) !

I'd like to ask people to state up front what their affiliation is, especially if they're going to make accusations about conflicts of interest of others. We're hearing from some people here for the first time, and it would be great to know who they work for, what products they make, and how they relate to RSS.

Steve, at the right point, I'd vote to add people from the "Atom" project, if they're going to use RSS 2.0 in accordance with the roadmap in the spec. I think that would be the rational way for them to accomplish what they want to accomplish. I'd be more interested though, in getting some people who aren't technology-focused involved, I think programmers often have an exaggerated view of their own importance, and syndication formats is a fantastic example of that, a sad one.

I'm Lex Friedman, I work as a 'Web Applications Programmer' or somesuch title for an Internet marketing company in Santa Monica, and I maintain an RSS 2.0 feed on my personal blog.

I judge the players in the SyndiWars by the things they write on their own sites, in my attempt to figure out everyone's motivations and goals.

I think a three-person board hand-picked by the spec's author with at least one other UserLand employee betrays the separation you're trying to create, but I don't know if you're doing so maliciously, and haven't drawn any conclusions.

I have deep respect for all 3 members of the advisory board and believe they will vote for what they believe is best for RSS and not be rubber stamps or patsies or anything. That being said, I also think it would be good if people like Sam Ruby or Mark Pilgrim would be added to the board.

I wonder if there's any chance there may be a vote as to whether or not to "unfreeze" the RSS 2.0 spec in order to add some of the things that Atom is talking about...

Rogers: RE: "How can Dave be accused of being in control of RSS 2.0..."

It is my impression that Dave has put forth quite a bit of effort to create the impression that RSS is, if not technically, at least practically, his. In fact, there is (at least according to most accounts) a lot of truth to that in terms of the significant work he did developing the format, even from it's early days. The problem with the arguement "you can go fork your own version..." (which is basically the arguement tacitly made by saying that it is under an attribution only license) is that NOBODY wants 50 versions of RSS 2.0, they want one. And that "one" is currently Dave's/UserLand's RSS 2.0. So while it's neat to say that I could write MY VERY OWN spec, the likelihood that it would receive widespread support is nill. Unlike projects that have had success with that kind of split (Xemacs for example), RSS is not primarily consumed by users...it's consumed by application developers, a comparitively miniscule market. What i believe people DO want to see (or did...it seems some of them have directed their efforts elsewhere) is the "One True RSS" become an entity of it's own, and NOT so closely tied to any one individual, thereby allowing it to respond with less bias to the needs of it's usership (the developers in this case).

In truth, I'm inclined to believe that this move is largely an attempt to divert potential future momentum from potentially competing formats. One of the primary early arguements for Echo/Pie/Atom? was that RSS was controlled by Dave. As has been alluded to by other posts in this thread, maintaining the RSS status quo has been construed to be financially beneficial to UserLand, and those closely affiliated with UserLand. Let's assume (yeah yeah...I'm an ass now) that is true. This, therefore, seems to be a way to let RSS out of the cage while simply keeping it in a fenced yard (weak analogy...but work with me) that remains largely under the control of those that stand to benefit from UserLand's success. Additionally, if, for whatever reason, UserLand's success is impacted by RSS 2.0's success (or lack there of), it would seem that any reduction of a competing format's momentum would be in UserLand's (and it's supporters') interest. By removing the "controlled by Dave" arguement from the alternative, it is likely that fewer people will be drawn to support an alternative. How many fewer is unclear. Lack of independance and control can be a powerful arguement as should be shown by the increased popularity (however little or much you think there is) and traction that Open Source/Free Software products/projects have received in the last 10 years. While not necessarily a compelling arguement alone, it is a powerful complimentary arguement.

If I'm going to keep writing comments this large, I too should probably start writing my own weblog...


Is there such as thing as ownership of the format itself?

As a side note it is really great to see O'Reilly and Winer on the same team. Both of these folks seem to have made careers out of respect for common protocols and community building.

Bigco's take note: precisely what is valuable about RSS is that it stands a chance at being something that isn't fully controllable by bigco's.

Long live the peer to peer media distribution revolution. Viva la "edge of the network"! ;)

Why would anybody want to join an advisory board of a frozen standard?

The tansfer seems to address a argument put forth on copyright in Tim Bray's Mr. Safe argument, but beyond that what will happen?

Why would an end-user or a competing tool manufacturer want to support a standard that was frozen under Userland's or Mr. Winer's control?


I'd be a little worried about adding people from the Atom project, unless of course they are ready to incorporate the RSS 2.0 object model into Atom. Otherwise, there would be an obvious conflict of interest, as the motivation of the Atom project is to replace RSS.

Quote from the Pie Motivation pagewww.intertwingly.net

"... what we're doing isn't just a replacement for RSS -- it's also ..."

Lex: Brent Simmons is not a UserLand employee.

Cameron: Anyone who believes that Dave Winer has practical control of RSS needs to explain the existence of RSS 1.0. It was developed and published independently of Winer, over his strong personal objections to the forking of the format under the same name, and it has subsequently been supported by hundreds (perhaps even thousands) of Web providers. And all of this happened when he had more ownership than he does now.

Some people are clearly threatened by this change (presumably because they're working on or advocating Echo). This is good -- RSS 2.0 is threatened by Echo, too. May the best syndication format win.

I'd like to get specific on 'extensions' to RSS 2.0. Specifically there is a topic extension called ENT which is being used by a few of us - to embed topics into RDD feeds. I believe they have adhered to all the correct namespace requirements.

What is the process of a) evaluating namespace extensions like this? b) supporting them? c) getting otehrs to support it?

Dave: I have no affiliations to speak of. I'm a web developer for a credit union in Arizona. I have a web site that publishes RSS through Blogger. I use NetNewsWire. I have no read a speck of info over at the Echo project and I couldn't tell you the difference between RSS 0.91 and RSS 2.0 beyond the superficialities.

Why do I even care about all of this? I'm planning on migrating off of Blogger one of these days using Raymond Camden's CFCblog as the foundation for my own new blogging system. At that point, I may have to implement all of these specs.

Marc, Paolo asked that we put ENT in the sub-directory of RSS 2.0 namespaces, and we did. There's not much more we can or should do with it. As you can see the list is rather short. Go forth and innovate. There's room for lots more.

Possible expansions of board? How about?

A representative from another blog hosting company; ex. Blogger.

A representative from a news corporation, who is technically mundane unlike Jon Udell; ex. New York Times.

A representative from the non-techie blogging community; ex. Adam Curry.

A representative from the blogging tool community; ex. Dare Obasanjo.

Rogers: And I have the utmost respect for Brent Simmons. Were I able to go back and edit my comment, I'd rewrite it as:

"...with at least two individuals who work or have worked for UserLand..."

Uhhh Lex, I don't work for UserLand either.

Randy, I would love to have some people from the publishing industry involved, but..

With the kind of character assassination that's routine in this space, they'd never be willing to get involved.

As it stands right now we don't even have a validator to send them to that doesn't try to unsell them on RSS.

We're hopefully coming out of a very bad period into a very good one. I think between Brent, Jon and myself we can hold down the fort. If we all start working together, the sky's the limit. But we have to do it.

BTW, thanks for the three pointers to the namespaces. I added them to the directory. Inclusiveness. I was particularly pleased to be able to add a namespace designed by Chris Nandor and Rael Dornfest.

Dave: what are your thoughts on possibly unfreezing the RSS 2.0 spec and incorporating some of the Atom extensions? IMHO a single all-encompassing spec would be better than two incompatible ones.


There is little I can say to express how grateful I am for this move but I tried: www.tnl.net

You are truly a mensch.

Rogers writes, "Anyone who believes that Dave Winer has practical control of RSS needs to explain the existence of RSS 1.0."

I'd love to have that conversation, but this isn't the right place. I'll email and we can set up a conversation that can be presented.

My apologies to Mark Bernstein and Michael Bernstein for mixing up their names. I meant Mark Bernstein NOT Michael Bernstein in my previous comment.

BTW, Mark Berstein's Tinderbox rocks and I am saving my pennies to buy it.

Here is my revised comment:

MARK Bernstein wrote:

I also think you need one person with strong computer science chops. A theory person, perhaps an academic, could help make sure the standard stays clean in theory.

My comment:

I think Jon Udell and Brent Simmons have more computer science chops than a whole roomful of academics :-) !


>non-techie blogging community; ex. Adam Curry.

I'd reconsider that suggestion - the fact that he paid for Radio placement would just fuel more fire to the claims of "lack of impartiality" (similar to "former Userland employees").

Dave, did you not say the other day that you are on the board of Userland? Isn't that working for them?

Rogers, you more than anyone should know that RSS 2.0 isn't threatened by Atom per se, it's threatened by any future development that doesn't conform to the (frozen) RSS 2.0 specification.

The biggest competitor to RSS 2.0 has been RSS 1.0, and according to recent stats (see rss-dev), RSS 1.0 is ahead in adoption by a small margin. But many of the advocates for RSS 1.0 (myself included) believe it is more important to be able to move forward than to waste time fighting stupid battles. It isn't about RSS vs. Atom (I haven't seen anyone say they'll even deprecate RSS), it's about allowing a route forward. According to the much-vaunted roadmap, RSS 2.0 can't go beyond RSS 2.0x, and that doesn't allow much progress, whoever it's owned by.

I would also like to repeat my earlier question : what in practice will this change?

imho, the principal effect this has is moving copyright from the UserLand corporation to Berkman. So copyright won't be in limbo if UserLand is sold or folded or falls into disinterested management. This means RSS is a little more secure.

btw, Way to play the H-Card, Dave!

I would just like to add a note of unambiguous support for this move. It was a generous and forward thinking action and the entire RSS community will benefit.

Does anyone posting here or reading here have time to do a feasability study? How quickly can the core of Atom/(n)Echo be added to RSS 2.0 under the rules the board have set out? Do that and write a log entry for it. Post the results here. I'm going to try, but I'm internet access-challenged at the moment. Borrowing a computer...

Thanks for the debate all. My brain hurts and that means that it's growing and learning.


Smart move given your position and the recent discussions about various protocols and standards. Harvard is getting a chance to further put their money where their mouth is. Any plans to build out a sustainable business venture? Maybe pick up some of the opportunities to move RSS into higher education?

God I hope this calms people down so we can get on with making good RSS feeds. We need style guide about RSS, not more tech guides.

And for those people who think things need to keep changing, I hope not. My old tv still works and I want my old RSS reader/feed to still work.

My two cents!

Steve, one of the ideas behind Necho/Atom is to unify the formats, including RSS 1.0 and 2.0. What you will have is all the good things about RSS without all the technical (and political) baggage. Only it won't be called RSS. (see the Motivation page : www.intertwingly.net)

Ray - you won't be left with tools that don't work, but to get more out of syndication you might want to use newer tools. Would your radio be better if it only supported AM, or is AM/FM better?

To Danny's comment of 7/19 @ 6:18AM:

I understand that. I've read and participated in the Wiki, but with this recent change from Dave and UserLand, it's time to unify behind the existing standard. Make RSS 2.0 what the community wants, as demonstrated by the Atom project. Dave has started the ball with this gesture. Let's see something from the other group, too. Let's give the technology press something to write about other than a feud.

As far as my original comment re: format analysis is concerned: I did some brief research yesterday. Neither project's spec is written in a *100%* clear fashion. Yes, I found pages on both sites that clearly show what a feed is required to have and what is optional. Maybe I've read too many RFCs...

Steve: "...it's time to unify behind..." and "Let's see something from the other group..."

Ok...here's kind of how I see this thing playing out...playground style (please try to have a little bit of a sense of humor out there):

(While labeled as atomites, the group exists in this short dialogue BEFORE atom was fathomed)

Atomites: Dave, your rules don't allow for the full range of gameplay that we'd like to see. The rules are also inconsistant and unclear, making it difficult to play successfully much of the time...

Dave: Play the game by my rules, or I'll call you "funky". I made up these rules, so I don't have to change them if I don't want. Anyway, I thought this whole thing up in the first place; who are you to question me?


Atomites: Hmmm...guess we'll just go play our own game, with our own rules. That kind of arbitrary control over the game by one person sucks. Let's create a set of rules that is flexible to accomodate individual needs.

Community: Hmm...we see some merit to the Atom idea. I guess it is a little disconcerting that Dave has so much control. Maybe a change is in order...

Dave's Internal Monologue: Hmm...they seem to be gaining some momentum over there. I've got to do something...

Dave: Ok, Ok, I guess I'll give up my death-grip on RSS and let it's future be determined by Me and a couple of buddies...better?

Community (some of it anyway): Oh, orgasmic joy, Dave has made a token show of independance. Let's all get behind him and demand that the Atomites return to the flock in support as well. Clearly we can all rely on Dave now.

WHICH BRINGS US TO NOW... (end of sketch)

I find it oddly ironic that we're going to now tacitly demand that the Atom group abandon (or at least partially abandon) their efforts in order to unite in support for someone who has historically resisted exactly the changes they wanted to see, so much so, and for so long, that they finally had to resort to the non-preferable solution of developing an alternative. Additionally, we seem to be willing to abandon reason and logic and instead defer to "warm fuzzies" as a justification for this change in attitude.

The reality as I see it is this: The burden remains on the newly formed RSS 2.0 group to DEMONSTRATE WITH ACTION that they are actually interested in responding to the community OVER A SIGNIFICANT PERIOD OF TIME. That would demonstrate that this is really a move to benefit all the users of RSS 2.0 and not simply a damage control move by UserLand fans (fans should be a safe word to collectively refer to a customer, major share-holder, and former employee).

In the mean time, I'm quite certain that the Atom project will move forward, as their goals appear to encompass more than simply syndication.

I personally would encourage both projects to move forward independantly with their similar but different goals. I agree that it would be nice to see some sort of reconciliation between the two groups, but that at this point, it would seem to me that the burden is on Dave, et al and not the Atom project to make that move. He is the one with the demonstrated unwillingness to change historically, the burden remains on him to demonstrate to an equal degree, this shift in approach.

If you're really about making RSS 2.0 meet the needs of the community, the wiki is there, go look to it for an indication of what others would like to see in a syndication format.


Cameron, your story is fun, but it isn't the way it happened, and this isn't about playgrounds, it's about information, businesses, developers, schools, science, and freedom of speech. I've never stated as a goal, nor do I have a goal of stopping anything. I raised the issue of the spec moving out of UserLand into a neutral place long before there was an Echo or Atom project.

Well between the backbiting, congrats and open speculations - the thread is at least representative of the blogs that i have read around rss and echo...

I'm a developer and systems designer - I have an interest in using RSS as part of a project management tool. I hope the directory for namespaces will be accompanied by some form of discussion forum where future namespace developments could be discussed. I for one would be interested in discussing a namespace extension for project management related tags, with anyone else who is interested in this area...

My view of the developments of transferring copyright to Berkman makes sense and Lessig's creative commons license is a useful tool in the face of a possible future Userland sale or change of direction under new management. Given the early composition of the board - criticism and concern should be expected - at the same time - give people enough time to show their colours and aims in regard to this innitiative. I would hope that the new board would aim to establish a set of operating procedures for adding new members democratically- e.g could members vote on additional boardmembers elected from their ranks say within 3 monhts and from that point whole board elections be held every year?

All in all - I think the development is a good one and Dave deserves a healthy dose of credit for starting the initiative... no doubt the ongoing development of the initiative will be accompanied by a number of blog entries, entertaining commentaries/ open speculation, attempted (or retroactively claimed) character assasination and diatribes... Should be prove fun...and hopefully productive too boot!!

Well done, Dave. This was a classy move.

As someone who writes local news full-time for the Internet (a pretty rare breed when I started 3-plus years ago), I have high hopes for news aggregators, blogs and RSS, even if I barely understand it (no programmer I).

I've taken my share of beta-testing shrapnel, and do NOT like what .NET Framework did to my PC's setup (so I yanked it and the readers based on it), but anything that will make it easier for folks to sift through the huge universe of Web info and get what they want coming to them will be worth the heartburn you egg-spurts are going through.

I can see beyond the sea of navel-gazing blogs to see how important all this is, and wish y'all the best of luck;-)

Steve, you say "Make RSS 2.0 what the community wants" - this can't work, for the reasons on the Wiki Motivation page. RSS 2.0 is anchored where it is, based on Dave's choices in late 2002. We need things it simply *can't* offer - for example a consistent API. But we can still use RSS 1.0 and 2.0 for what they can do, and learn from them what we need. Syndication is a lot bigger than these formats. Atom gives a way of moving forward.

Why is the date format  RFC 822 ???

That's hardly an international friendly standard.  How is a Japanese person supposed to know that hachigatsu is Aug in English or that doyoubi is Sat?


Indeed, this is one of many reasons to use the Dublin Core style of timestamps.  That format is entirely independent of any language associations.  Combine that with use of times in UTC and it's much, much more flexible than using the obsolete x822 standard.

Hallo Dave, hallo all,

please, bag your pardon. Have I not found it only? I was searching for the DTD for RSS 2.0 . Please help me.

thanks and best greetings, Thomas

Strangely, the list of optional channel elements (http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/tech/rss#optionalChannelElements) does not itself contain <item>, even though <item> is documented a bit further down, and that doc opens with the sentence "A channel may contain any number of <item>s."


I want to notice a (in my opinion) very big RSS spec issue. The mark-up in the <description> tag must NOT be escaped! It just must be valid XML, i. e. valid XHTML, then all the problems are gone. Or otherwise, it should be plain-text-only. I hope you will take this into consideration.




Please can someone tell me where to find the XSD for RSS? It seems strange that it's not prominently linked to here.

Currently RSS feeds have a pretty strong trust assumption because theuser subscribes to them and they are just text with an occasionalimage. With the addition of automatically downloaded binaryfiles,  the protocol has the potential to become an efficientdistributor of malevolent social-engineering schemes like trojan horses.Any thought about a vetting system?

I've posted a follow-up to my comments here:


The following statement needs to be internationalised since autumn onlyapplies to half of the planet earth, and 'fall' only applies to half ofone continent.----This document represents the status of RSS as of the Fall of 2002, version 2.0.1.----

Dave & Thomas...

I have put together an XSD for RSS 2.0. Thomas, does this help? DTDs are generally more limited than XSD, but they can sometimes be converted back and forth using tools.

Dave, I would be curious if you could confirm this XSD to see if it is complete.



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