Is OPML a crappy format?

Oh good – yet another format battle brewing in the geekosphere. And now that I’m feeling better, I can’t help but jump in :)

While Scoble is right that users shouldn’t have to care about formats, the truth is that when a format is underspecified, it becomes a problem for users.

Case in point: during the first year of FeedDemon’s development, I heard countless users complain that a certain feed wouldn’t display correctly, and much of the time the problem was that the feed contained incorrectly encoded HTML tags. Developers of several other RSS readers reported the same thing. Bottom line: the imprecise RSS specification resulted in a lot of guess work, which complicated things for developers, end users and feed producers.

The solution? We clarified the RSS spec. While problems with entity-encoded HTML haven’t disappeared completely, in my experience they’re far less common than they used to be (and when they do occur, we now have examples to point to).

And that’s all that’s needed here, too. Clarify the OPML spec, and we can skip another prolonged format battle. Dave, once I’ve recuperated, I’ll gladly help polish the spec, and can assist in creating example OPML files for developers to test with.

5 thoughts on “Is OPML a crappy format?

  1. Thanks for being among the first to actually offer to address the problem. No need to get into a nasty flame war–identify the problem and address it.
    Hope the recovery is going well, too.

  2. Glad to hear you feeling better and geeking out agian… I’m a huge fan of your work and it’s really good news to know that you will be working on the spec. I am just about to develop an opml feed parser for flash, so i’ll watch this space very carefully to see what happens.

  3. you have to laugh sometimes, an anonymous posted
    “Aside from the fact that its YetAnotherML, and that XML was an exceptionally Bad Idea from the start, I just had to pop over to Winer’s site and see just how bad this is.
    OPML is bad. Really, really bad. The clown is actually specifying SCREEN PIXELS, for god’s sake. This is 2005.”
    XML WAS BAD?????? not sure where he/she is coming from there, anyhow people always try to make things harder, theres a spec which should be adheard to and those that dont comply fall short of calling itself and opml file. Its not the specs fault people cant write the feed properly, definatly a newer version would be good but to blam the existing spec for humans inability to write good opml files is rubbish.

  4. THanks Nick, that’s all that’s been needed. So far all the discourse on OPML has been controlled by people with something to prove. We’ll do some work on this, and with your help, keep the community focused on progress not on the people who use these flames as a way of building flow for their blogs.
    Also I just heard about your surgery, and wish you the best for a speedy recovery. I know what it’s like, having spent most of a year getting back after a pretty big illness. You never get all the way back, is my experience, but in many ways things are better than they were before.

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