Microsoft Rethinks RSS Name Change

A well-known Microsoft Web logger is downplaying the proposed use of a new name for RSS (Really Simple Syndication) in the next version of Internet Explorer following several days of intense discussion about the notion of rebranding RSS in the Web log community.

In an interview Wednesday, Robert Scoble, a Microsoft technical evangelist and writer of a popular Web log, or blog, about the software giant, says the company had not made a final decision as to whether it would rename RSS "Web feeds" in the final version of IE 7 the way it has in the beta version that is available now.

"We never said Microsoft has decided [to rebrand RSS]," Scoble says. "It's a year ahead of [Windows Vista] being released and we're trying to work with the community to get some consensus."

In the IE 7 Beta 1, RSS feeds are called "Web feeds," a fact first brought to light in an August 2 "IEBlog" post by Jane Kim, a Microsoft program manager for RSS in IE.

Controversy Sparked

The post sparked a flurry of controversy in the blogs of Microsoft watchers, some of whom prematurely viewed Microsoft's decision to rebrand RSS in the beta as an indication of the final name for RSS in the full version of the product. Some even worried that there might be a larger plan by Microsoft to recast RSS in its own image.

IE 7 will be included in the next version of the Windows operating system, Windows Vista, which is scheduled to ship toward the end of 2006. Microsoft has said it would offer broad support for RSS throughout Windows Vista, including an implementation in IE 7.

Both Scoble and Mike Torres, MSN Spaces lead program manager for Microsoft, claimed in their blogs that Microsoft has no plan to rewrite RSS but is trying to come up with a way to name the technology in a way that is generally accepted in the industry and among Web users.

In his blog "Torres Talking," Torres mentioned the Mozilla Foundation's Firefox Web browser, which calls RSS feeds "Live Bookmarks," and Newsgator Online and Bloglines, which both call them "feeds," in his defense of Microsoft's choice to call RSS "Web feeds" in IE 7. He said this shows the industry as a whole may be interested in using the RSS technology but not the "RSS" brand.

Nevertheless, comments on the blogs of Torres, Scoble, and Dave Winer, a software guru who writes the popular "Scripting News" Web log, ignited a heated discussion of Microsoft's plans for RSS in the blog community and in published reports by the IDG News Service and other publications over the past few days.

Scoble says in an interview that because of Microsoft's "history"--which famously includes attempts to create proprietary implementations for standard technology--the company wants to be careful and "do the right thing" in regards to RSS.

In one widely publicized case over the branding of an accepted technology standard, Microsoft ended up paying Sun Microsystems $1.9 billion last year to settle a seven-year lawsuit over the software giant's implementation of Java.

"I'm fighting that [former] path," Scoble says of Microsoft's careful consideration of how to include and name RSS in its products. "We're just trying to be compliant with everyone here not do something evil."

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