The Second Coming of RSS

In the past week, we have started to see the development of what Richard MacManus calls the "Second Coming of Content and RSS Feeds" in his excellent and "must read" post on this topic.

I have been sensing this for a while now.  It’s not one thing, it’s a bunch of things coming together to make RSS way more useful and fundamental than it was when I discovered it three years ago.

The Future of Media post, where I gave you this formula:

1 – Microchunk it – Reduce the content to its simplest form.
2 – Free it – Put it out there without walls around it or strings on it.
3 – Syndicate it – Let anyone take it and run with it.
4 – Monetize it – Put the monetization and tracking systems into the microchunk.

was the beginning of my articulation of the changing nature of RSS and the media world it is impacting.

There was another important moment for me and that was our Sessions event, where Tim O’Reilly and Brad Burnham talked about "putting a string on data".  I wrote an entire post on that concept on the Union Square Ventures blog over the past weekend that it seems that nobody has read.  I won’t try to summarize that post here, but the basic question of whether you can "put a string on data" is a really important issue relating to the future of RSS and media in general.

And then over the weekend, Ray Ozzie puts out this post talking about making RSS two-way, with something Microsoft is calling Simple Sharing Extensions (SSE). As an aside, but an important aside, Microsoft is making SSE available under a creative commons license.  Here is the spec for SSE and a FAQ in case you are interested in learning more.

I will let the techies tell me how big of a deal SSE is, but it sure appears like a big deal to me.  Making RSS two-way seems like a huge leap forward.

And Dave Winer, the father of RSS, thinks its a good thing too in his post on SSE where he says the following:

Microsoft’s new approach to synchronizing RSS
and OPML, using methods pioneered in Ozzie’s earlier work, and keeping
the "really simple" approach that’s worked so well with networked
syndication and outlining, combines the best of our two schools of
thought, and this creativity is available for
everyone to use.
It’s a proud moment for me, I hope for Ray and Jack and the rest of the
people at Microsoft, and perhaps for the open development community on
the Internet.

Then yesterday afternoon, via Richard McManus’ post I linked to at the top of this post, I came across this mindblowing post by Dick Costolo, the CEO of Feedburner, in which he put all the pieces together for me.

I am not going to even attempt to paraphrase Dick’s post.  You really need to read it in its entirety, but I will say that he is introducing a concept that may well be the answer to the question about "putting a string on the data". Dick says, near the end of the post:

If we manage syndicated content at a more atomic level by attaching
“threads” to the item, we can provide tools to publishers that enable
not just the tracking of the thread, but also use the thread as a
communications line between the world of web services and the content
item. We can essentially staple rules, patterns, and meta-data to the
content in a live and “always on” way, wherever the content goes.

Thread or strings, it doesnt’ matter to me what words we use.

We are headed into a world of atomic content/data objects that are free, open, mixable, mashable, "two-way" and "always on".

And that is just huge.