Niall Goes to Microsoft

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.

4 thoughts on “Niall Goes to Microsoft

  1. I see open RSS platforms as a way for aggregators to do even more cool things with less work. That was the basis of my talk at ETech, letting developers know there are already teams of people focused on parsing the XML, and there are many different applications that can build on top of the data.
    Will the aggregation space in 5 years look like the e-mail world of today? Most people use the applications bundled with their PC or a productivity package on the desktop, or webmail through a large company or ISP. Outlook,, AOL, Yahoo! Mail, Gmail, etc.
    Then again there are still premium Usenet readers out there such as Unison on the Mac.
    I think developers of any application take into account a big player moving into the space and how they can move quickly and uniquely to deliver the features their users want. This was definitely the case with Google moving into blog search while I was at Technorati.
    Thanks for your good thoughts and I’ll continue to remain open to discussion and new ideas from the entire community.

  2. Nick, your last two words are the key: “remain innovative”. Even if MS were to take 99% of your current space, there’s always something new to be done.

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