Unified RSS

There are currently two orthogonal viewpoints in the world of RSS: Really Simple Syndication and RDF Site Summary. The former describes a format for distributing content between small scale publishers; the latter a format for describing metadata about items on the web. I call these viewpoints orthogonal, rather than opposing, because they address different, not opposite needs and I believe it is possible for them to co-exist and work in unison. My proposal is to acknowledge that there are two distinct requirements and make it explicit by blessing one RSS branch as a content distribution format, the other as a content metadata format. I hope it's obvious that RSS 2.0 fits the content distribution role, and RSS 1.0 fits the metadata role. Both formats would share the core channel/item/title/link model.

For this to work there has to be agreement between the two sides. Some concessions will have to be made in both camps. As a starting point I'd suggest that the following principles would have to be agreed:

  1. Both formats have equal claim to the name RSS.
  2. Make PURL namespace available to both formats for consistency.
  3. There should be a well specified separation of responsibilities for the two formats. Overlaps should be eliminated.
  4. Development on both formats should be carried out as a community project.
  5. Current RSS specifications should be deprecated in favour of the two new formats.

There are also specific changes that should be made to each current branch to migrate them to the new unified RSS:

RSS 1.0

  1. Rename to RSS Metadata
  2. Add <content> element that points to RSS Content file
  3. Deprecate the use of mod_content
  4. Change namespace to http://purl.org/rss/metadata/1.0/
  5. Remove current restrictions on RDF structure, possibly even the rdf:Seq construct

RSS 2.0

  1. Rename to RSS Content
  2. Add <metadata> element that points to RSS Metadata file
  3. Develop richer ways of embedding HTML content in the feed or embedding RSS in HTML.
  4. Change namespace to http://purl.org/rss/content/1.0/
  5. Keep focus on plain and simple XML.
  6. Promote unique URIs for each item to assist RSS Metadata

My sincere hope is that the enormous energies that have been put into the development of all the branches of RSS can now be focussed on building a stronger and more mature, unified RSS.

Permalink: http://blog.iandavis.com/2003/06/unified-rss/

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