Permanent link to archive for 4/15/05. Friday, April 15, 2005

Yahoo, Microsoft and Google in RSS

In my mind, the three top Internet application companies are Yahoo, Google and Microsoft, in no special order.

Of the three Yahoo and Microsoft are aggressively moving forward in deploying RSS, Yahoo more than all three, and Google is doing absolutely nothing, at least nothing that's visible.


Today, ResearchBuzz discovered that Yahoo's shopping site has been completely RSS-ized. This is very cool, and very smart. A few years from now they will likely have a disproportionate share of commercial information flow through RSS because they moved so early, so strongly, and so compatibly.

Their feeds are plain and obviously useful. There's no doubt that they will work with every reader and aggregator out there today, and five years from now. And when the inevitable RSS discovery networks emerge, Yahoo's feeds will be near the top because they, right now, have no equal.

Where is Google?

Consider this Google search (screen shot), and the irony of it.

To this day Google doesn't do anything interesting with RSS feeds. It can't even display feeds in an intelligent way. Perhaps it's NIH that's keeping them from embracing RSS as their two main competitors have. Whatever it is, Yahoo is dashing in front, with Microsoft close behind.

Why isn't Google in the race? To me it remains a mystery.


At the end of next week I'm going to Microsoft to meet with teams there working on RSS, to plot strategy, to look for opportunities. They've come a long way since re-inventing XML-RPC to produce SOAP and first compromising with IBM and then Sun and then the W3C to create a protocol that's going absolutely nowhere. Now they're two years into  RSS, and haven't reinvented it; or even extended it without first testing the water outside. That's something that Yahoo could do a little more of.

There's no profit in being incompatible, and in this day you won't gain any lock-in either. That's what I've been preaching to Microsoft and they've been listening, and acting. I have been saying it publicly to Yahoo because there's no private channel, they appear to resent my existence (maybe they fear the rocks that Don Park talks about). I really am trying to help, believe it or not.

Why RSS is working

Tech companies must understand their place isn't to guide the rest of us, rather to learn what we want and then make systems that help us do that. That's when the tech industry is making a contribution. When it tries to lead, it ends up trying to control, and that never works.

Microsoft and Yahoo are finally, for the most part, letting the users drive, with outstanding results. Sure it could work better, and it will work better. It's a bootstrap and big companies with their vast resources and ability to make the trains go, have an important role to play.

But it only works when all components are engaged. Software developers have a role to play, but users must dominate if it's going to have a chance of working. To the extent that RSS is working it's because the users are driving the growth.

# Posted by Dave Winer on 4/15/05; 1:13:44 PM - --

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