RSS 1.1

As a developer, for a long time, I believed RSS 2.0 to be significantly superior to RSS 1.0. It was a more popular format, more people had heard of it, but most importantly, it was easy to create. In comparison to RSS 1.0, creating RSS 2.0 documents was downright trivial. There was no need to have the goofy “rdf:RDF” tag at the top, with all those weird looking URIs for some reason no one could tell me. Clearly, at the time when I was thinking this, I was not aware of RDF or the benefits of it. As time went on, I realized the benefits of the RSS 1.0 way of doing things, most importantly, that the content is RDF.

However, RSS 1.0 is still a relatively confusing format to implement to a non-RDF aware developer. The “table of contents” listed in the rdf:Seq is redundant, and to a lot of people who are used to working in XML and not under the constraints of RDF, confusing. The documentation on all the RSS formats is quite weak. A table comparing what each one offers is hard, if not impossible, to find, especially since most such lists are biased towards the writer of said list.

As I’ve become more and more involved in developing tools relating to RDF and the Semantic Web, RSS 1.0 has become more and more of a sticking spot in my experiences with people. They are soured by their 1.0 experience: a feeling I can not blame them for, as RSS 1.0 is constrained in many ways by the circumstances under which it was developed.

Fed up with dealing with a less than optimal format that was truly leaving people feeling negatively towards RDF in general, I decided that I was going to work on something that would be better for RDF and RSS. I was just going to write it myself, but luckily for me, I had the help of a couple of friends.

sbp, and myself, along with many a helping hand from d8uv, have written a specification we are labeling RSS 1.1. From the Specification:

This specification is therefore made available by users of the RSS 1.0 format who wanted to update the specification to make use of the latest features of RDF in order to reduce the redundancy in the format, and the ambiguity in the specification, while at the same time implementing a series of bugfixes from the lessons learned in developing the other descendent of RSS 1.0, Atom.

This specification comes with a full Test Suite, a validator, and a number of other resources, from background information to implementation details in several different types of configuration.

We have formed a channel for discussion of RSS 1.1 related issues on Freenode: #rss1.1 on irc.freenode.net. If you are interested in using the specification, or would like to offer your opinions, you can stop by there to talk to us.

This specification is not designed as competition for Atom: it is designed only as a bugfix release for RSS 1.0, and is not designed to compete with any other existing efforts. There were a significant number of issues with RSS 1.0 that had been raised over the years, some of which were relatively important from the standpoint of a lazy developer such as myself. Hopefully others will feel a similar way.

3 Responses to “RSS 1.1”

  1. rho Says:

    YAUSF (Yet Another Useless Syndication Format) is just what the world needs. :)

    Now, even though I don’t speak RDF, I’m fairly sure that your new format will be technically better than RSS 1.0. But the technicalities involved really aren’t all that relevant, I don’t think. The vast majority of feeds and feed readers that I’ve seen don’t bother with many of the things that RSS can do. In most cases, the swathes of possible metadata just isn’t relevant.

    I know that you’re all about the metadata, but for most people, both creating and reading feeds, they just don’t care. All they want is something that will get the things they want to read quickly and easily from point A to point B.

    And all I want is a world where there aren’t a million and one competing syndication formats, and people aren’t constantly expecting the Next Big Thing (which is actually not at all big) to be supported. The problem (with the world of web syndication in general, not with RSS 1.1) is that it’s far too full of politics and egotism, and is sufficiently anarchic that it isn’t likely to stabilise any time soon.

  2. Christopher Schmidt Says:

    ρ: A world where there aren’t a million and one competing syndication formats would, indeed, be a wonderful thing. As it is, however, there are a lot fewer than people would have you believe. .91/.92 are old, but the most widely supported version of RSS. 2.0 replaces .92, but does not have as good of support in aggregators always, so is not used in some cases. Still, 2.0 tends to be the “default” for most tools these days. RSS 1.0 is an RDF based format for syndication. Atom is a more “complete”, but still under revision, replacement for 2.0.

    However, none of them are RDF based except 1.0, and 1.0 just. plain. sucked. It was 5 years old, and people were strongly dissuaded from using it because of the fact that it pretty much sucked.

    This format isn’t an attempt to draw any new “customers” to the RDF world, really. It’s just a replacement for people who care primarily about the RDF aspect of their feeds, and not about aggregation. It’s an evolution of the 1.0 release to fix bugs that have been brought up over the 5 years that RSS 1.0 has been in place, and is designed to slowly replace 1.0.

    1.1 is incompatible with 1.0, a decision we made with reluctance. Unfortunately, changing anything, right down to the namespace URI, causes parsers to not accept it as the same anymore. However, the path we went down means that most tools have only minor changes to support RSS 1.1: We’ve already got 4 aggregators who have implemented support (and had within an hour or two yesterday), which is, in my opinion, a testament to the fact that it is a relatively easy to implement change.

    We wanted to improve the broken aspects of a broken syndication format. Unfortunately, we couldn’t do that without messing with some people. We’ve done our best to make it easy to update, and also done our best to make it clear that we’re not in the Syndication war: if any “fight” is going on, it’s far from our sphere, and outside our political reach. I just want something that doesn’t suck, and if nobody else uses it, then they don’t, and I really don’t care.

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