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Monday, November 28, 2005


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Regarding the "format wars," without taking sides in the RSS vs Atom debate, or the OPML vs whatever debate, my own point of view on the subject has changed 180 degrees in the past few years. In the past, I was very much in the "go with what we have and not worry about making it perfect" camp. The reason for being in that camp was that things like file formats had a fairly short shelf life before they were replaced by something else. For example, unformatted text was replaced by roff, which was replaced by WordStar, which was replaced by Word Perfect, which was replaced by MS Word, which will be replaced by OpenDocument.

But XML changes everything. XML and it's attendant extensions and vocabularies have become a universal data description language, which, if implemented correctly, may NEVER be replaced by something else. Or at least not for a very long time. Under those circumstances, I think that it's generally worth taking a little extra time and effort to make sure that any obvious flaws are corrected before a proposed format becomes too entrenched that it can't easily be changed.

The switching costs will never be lower than they are now.

This is not about attention OPML namespaces but about other, non-attention, but still general OPML attributes. See what you think. Is this a good idea?


I have some reservations about OPML in the long run. The spec is underspecified. I also think that the folder concept might not work for feed aggregators in the future.

That doesn't mean that it can't be fixed. (or that I'm wrong which I'm not ruling out).

That said there's no reason we can't improve OPML. Namespaces would be a step in the right direction. It's great that Dave likes namespaces now. There's a lot you can do here.

As far as real world quality of OPML... I'm not sure it holds up. My recent experience with export format complaince with OPML is that a significant percentage of aggregators are broken. It's one of those things that's only used once in a blue moon.

Some aggregators include the xmlUrl as the htmlUrl. NewsGator OPML output is broken I think. The attributes are all lowercase. I can't remember if the XML spec is case-insensitive right now.



Kevin, of course the definition of 'broken' is fluid. There are things that the spec is silent on, and anyway, for an aggregator like BlogBridge, it's more important to be able to import, say, BlogLines' OPML than following the spec. It's the old "Postel's Law" at work again: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jon_Postel. That's why these efforts at coming to some kind of consensus on basic OPML and namespace extensions are worth while IMHO.

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