Sunday, October 02, 2005

The Truth About OPML

Charles beat me to the punch: What is the difference between accepting OPML, and accepting arbitrary XML documents of unknown formats?
Has Dave been playing a drawn out April Fools joke? "Hey, wouldn't it be funny if we repeated all of RSS's mistakes but left out the good parts this time?" I don't get. When I implemented a simple aggregator, RSS support gave me a headache, but OPML made me want to chew my leg off. The resulting code was a mess and I had no confidence in its compatibility. How could I? Is this what you were shooting for, Dave? RSS succeeded despite it's flaws and lack of specification, not because of it. I really wish Atom had been around a little sooner. Maybe there's still time.


Anonymous jmaurus said...

You don't have to like OPML, I personally think it's an ok format for outlines and that's it.

But on the ATOM thing... IMHO, RSS succeeded because it had a "just good enough" specification (which is not it's strong point), but that specification is *unchanging*, well understood in all its shortcomings and open. The Atom group, just like the RDF-guys and even the SOAP people, made and still make the mistake of publishing changing specs. Dave understood that as programming applications takes time and many groups are working on applications at once, only a absolutely frozen spec can foster interoperability. And that's what happened and RSS had lots of previous art at that.

So there's no point in complaining, I think Atom will never play more than a marginal role in this thing. Even if it is the technologically more advanced solution (it is) and even if RSS fails to address crucial technological problems (it does, UTF content for example).

The important thing I want to say, I guess, is that RSS succeeded despite its technical flaws because it got the (unprecedented in the area of interoperability in this magnitude) specification stuff right, and Atom doesn't.

1:47 AM  
Blogger Bob Lee said...

RSS may be frozen, but RSS alone isn't enough. You need the extensions which appear to just grow in the wild for RSS. When writing a feed parser, I spent most of my time scrambling around looking for which extensions were used in practive and for some documentation. I didn't even know where to look or if I had covered them all. Simple tasks like figuring out the author's email address turned out to be impossible. Dave is doing the exact same thing with OPML (letting extensions grow in the wild).

Atom on the other hand keeps track of the extensions in a centralized manner. Atom will also stay backward compatible, so what's the problem if it changes?

8:26 AM  

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