Very interesting tale of blogging intrigue and infighting from CNET that I missed on vacation:
- The conflict centers on something called Really Simple Syndication (RSS), a technology widely used to syndicate blogs and other Web content. The dispute pits Harvard Law School fellow Dave Winer, the blogging pioneer who is the key gatekeeper of RSS, against advocates of a different format. The most notable of these advocates are Blogger owner Google and Sam Ruby, an influential IBM developer who is now shepherding an RSS alternative through its early stages of development.
Winer’s opponents are seeking a new format that would clarify RSS ambiguities, consolidate its multiple versions, expand its capabilities, and fall under the auspices of a traditional standards organization. Calls to revise RSS itself fell on deaf ears when Winer decided to freeze its technological core, preventing substantial changes to the heart of the format.
The dispute offers a glimpse into the byzantine and highly politicized world of industry standards, where individuals without legal authority over a protocol may nonetheless exercise control over it and where, consequently, personal attacks can become the norm. Despite the apparent pettiness of developers’ sniping, their arguments over digital minutia may carry enormous consequences, and corporate interests remain poised to capitalize on the conflicts if they are not resolved.
“Dave Winer has done a tremendous amount of work on RSS and invented important parts of it and deserves a huge amount of credit for getting us as far as we have,” Tim Bray, a member of the World Wide Web Consortium’s (W3C) influential Technical Architecture Group, wrote in a June 23 Web log entry. (Bray is also a co-creator of Extensible Markup Language (XML), a (W3C)-recommended language on which RSS is based.) “However, just looking around, I observe that there are many people and organizations who seem unable to maintain a good working relationship with Dave.”
The posting, which has served as a flashpoint for those on both sides of the controversy, has understandably drawn Winer’s wrath.
“Why has my personality become the issue? They’re using that to try to get me to shut up,” Winer said in an interview. “I think most people don’t have a difficult time working with me. It’s unfair. It’s untrue. And it’s unbecoming of someone of (Bray’s) stature to make statements like that. You can’t create things with flames–you can only tear things down with flames. If they want to create things, they can’t do it with the dislike of one person.”
….”What do they think is going to happen when they bring it to the standards body?” Winer asked. “All the theorizing and machinations are pretty much irrelevant, because the market is developing. There are lots of products out there, and whatever the developers want to do with freezing, unfreezing, submitting and so forth is not going to change anything. The market is growing.”
No one doubts Winer’s contention that the market for a Web content syndication format is expanding. But Ruby and his followers have ample evidence to suggest that the growing market is increasingly willing to follow them away from Winer’s RSS. Companies and individuals that have already thrown their support behind Ruby’s effort include Google and its Blogger unit; Six Apart, makers of the blogging tool Movable Type; Stanford University law professor Lawrence Lessig; and Bray.
I don’t pretend to understand the technical aspects of this but the group aligned against Winer appears to make more sense and have more credibility. And I will add this: I think Winer is a dick. When I first started blogging he was cordial and linked me a few times AS LONG AS I DIRECTLY KISSED HIS ASS.
When I mildly disagreed with him on a political matter – not his area of expertise I assure you, he has the political acumen of my mother-in-law – he never once, to this very day, ever communicated with me or linked me again. Period. In the blogworld, that is quintessential dick behavior. I picture him with one eye in the middle of his forehead and a nutsack neck. Sorry Dave, karma is a bitch.