Niall Kennedy just announced that he’s joining Microsoft and is tasked with helping build Microsoft’s RSS platform. This is a good move for Niall, and an even better move for Microsoft. Niall has the ear of everyone in the syndication community – and he’s a trusted participant within that community – so by hiring him, Microsoft’s voice in the conversation has gained more authority. And I’m personally excited to see Niall make this move, since he’s obviously someone who is motivated by the sheer joy of building something useful. Now he has a chance to tinker and geek-out on a much larger scale :)
As an aside, I’ve heard various comments from journalists and bloggers suggesting that by creating an RSS platform, Microsoft hopes to put RSS aggregators out of business. While I shared that concern when I first heard of Microsoft’s plans, I don’t believe this is true. If you look at their RSS API, it’s clear that a major goal is to simplify development of RSS-enabled Windows applications, and I believe they want to entice developers to stick with Windows.
Had I not already written code for FeedDemon that provides the same functionality as Microsoft’s API, I’d consider using it. As simple as RSS may be, creating a working RSS aggregator is far from simple – there’s a lot more to it than just parsing and displaying XML. Of course, Microsoft’s RSS platform isn’t even at version 1.0 yet, and it is missing some important features, but I’m confident it will become much more useful a version or two down the road (the fact that IE7 relies on the RSS API without resorting to “undocumented” functions says to me that they’ve got to get it right).
But this doesn’t mean I’ve got my head in the sand. It is scary for small developers who see bigger players like Microsoft, Apple, Google and Yahoo getting into their space – especially when some of those bigger players have a track record of “embrace and extend” (followed by “destroy”) – and I fully expect Microsoft to further RSS-enable many of their applications. For some users, these applications will provide enough functionality to make third-party RSS aggregators unnecessary. At the same time, though, it will also broaden the audience for RSS, providing a larger base of customers for syndication companies that stay on their toes and remain innovative.