RSS Hype

Jim Rapoza’s recent eWeek column “Don’t Believe RSS Hype” is the latest in a series of high-profile articles downplaying RSS. I guess this is to be expected given the number of people overstating the importance of RSS, and in a way, I’m glad to see this happen because it means that RSS is starting to mature and be taken seriously. Here’s a quote from the article:

“Much of the hype has been deserved, as RSS clearly eases the distribution and consumption of information and news. But when breathless observers predict how RSS will change all software—not to mention the way we work and live—they are doing RSS more harm than good.”

Agreed. I’m obviously a big fan and promoter of RSS, but I can’t say I’m happy to see RSS support tacked on to so many products. It reminds me of the early days of XML hype, when everyone wanted to put the word “XML” on their box just to get attention, regardless of whether the XML features made any sense.

“Many large sites that deliver RSS feeds recently started complaining that they are being hit every hour with a flood of reader requests that is, for all intents and purposes, the same thing as a denial-of-service attack.”

Urgh. Here we go again. I’m assuming this quote refers to a recent InfoWorld column by Chad Dickerson that compared the hourly surge of RSS requests to a DDoS attack. What Rapoza fails to mention is that Dickerson posted a follow-up article in which he admitted that InfoWorld’s servers weren’t configured to minimize bandwidth consumption. Or perhaps Rapoza is referring to Robert Scoble’s oft-commented quote that “RSS is Broken” and failed to notice that the problem wasn’t due to RSS, but instead due to the way Microsoft was building their aggregated feed.

Look, there obviously needs to be some more “plumbing” work done when it comes to serving RSS, but there have been way too many exaggerated claims about RSS eating bandwidth. A big part of the problem is that many high-traffic sites make a feed available without understanding how it works and what steps they can take to lower bandwidth usage. These sites then complain about the bandwidth consumed by RSS, leading to yet another round of uninformed RSS-bashing which is (thankfully) taken to task by those in the know.

“Another problem facing RSS is that it isn’t really a standard. There are several competing versions of RSS on the Internet, which leads to incompatibility”

The differences between the various flavors of RSS are insignificant. Look at it this way: I’ve written an HTML editor, a CSS/XHTML editor and an RSS reader. Supporting every flavor of RSS – and Atom – was easy, but supporting every version of HTML and CSS is still a pain. Sure, I’d like to have just one feed format, but so far I haven’t seen many problems caused by having multiple versions.

For the record, the vast majority of incompatibilities I’ve dealt with aren’t due to the different versions of RSS, but instead due to publishers using badly-formed XML in their feeds. I’ve spent far more time trying to support mangled XML in FeedDemon than I have in supporting all the RSS versions combined.

“To those developing products that use RSS: Find ways now to address some of RSS’ shortcomings—and dig for problems heretofore unknown—so the technology doesn’t become a burden on those who decide to use it.”

Agreed. While there has been a lot of press about the RSS vs. Atom feuds, the reality is that there are a lot of people – including myself and developers with competing products – working together behind-the-scenes to resolve these shortcomings and make sure that RSS achieves its promise.

One thought on “RSS Hype

  1. RSS == Hourly DDoS attack?

    I saw Nick Bradbury’s post, RSS Hype, where he methodically explains why Jim Rapoza’s “Don’t Believe RSS Hype” is just plain ignorant. There’s no use paying lip service to those kinds of people, but I did remember something that’s troubled…

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