Michael Gartenberg – "Big Companies Taking over RSS"

Michael Gartenberg links to Robert Scoble’s post about RSS:

This is not a surprise and in fact, it’s something that I said was likely to happen in 2003, except it’s not just MSFT, it’s a whole group of folks. I agree that it’s likely to be a mess and the folks who will get burned the most will be users. It’s time to leave this thing alone and to adhere to the original charter of the RSS advisory board.

I like and respect Michael, but in this case he’s absolutely wrong. This all stems from Dave Winer’s post warning people off from FeedBurner, and as I’ve said elsewhere, Dave simply doesn’t have an argument. Robert has retracted two of the key points of his argument – that FeedBurner presented a lock-in and that the RSS Advisory board kept changing the format – which leaves what he’s saying pretty bereft of facts.

Today, Dave has another post on the same subject, but again, it’s pretty empty of actual arguments. The core of his argument seems to be this:

However, if Google, the new owner of Feedburner ties Feedburner to Google Reader, that still hurts people like me, because my feed, that isn’t served through Feedburner, doesn’t wolrk as well with Google Reader.

If you doubt this is possible, read this comment by Kevin Marks, who works at Google.

First of all, it’s worth noting that Kevin’s comment actually suggests that Google would do the exact opposite of what Dave’s saying. Kevin is complaining about the fact that FeedBurner added Apple’s extensions to RSS, not suggesting that Google will do the same thing.

Now on to more from Dave:

It’s quite possible in the second or third iteration that Google drops support for non-Feedburner feeds.

And lose the ability to read 95% or more of all feeds? Cripple their own product? To say this is unlikely is understating it a bit.

It wouldn’t be unprecedented, far from it. Google Blogoscoped created a long list of Google products that “prefer” other Google products. I’ve never seen Google not do this when they had the chance. The instant they bought Blogger they tied it to their toolbar. If they had used an open API the toolbar would have worked with all blogging tools. Google just doesn’t think that way, sorry to say.

This is simply false. Blogger isn’t “tied” to the Google toolbar in any way. The fact that Blogger is on the Google toolbar doesn’t stop me using other blogging tools at all. There is no tie here. You might argue (and I think Dave might be) that the Google Toolbar should let you blog to multiple platforms, but Dave could simply do what I do: remove the blogging tool and drag a “Blog this” link from TypePad onto my links bar. Problem solved.

Dave again:

The ability of one user to opt out would do absolutely nothing to stop or even diminish the negative effects of monopolistic tying. And users show no inclination to do anything for the benefit of the Internet as a whole, so there’s no reason to believe any of them would withhold their support of Feedburner just because it screws with the benefits of a level playing field in the RSS ecosystem.

The whole point of tying is to penalize people who opt-out.

Again, this is nonsensical. The ability of users to opt out without penalty is exactly what stops monopolistic tying. The reason why Microsoft has been found guilty of tying is because you couldn’t actually opt out without some kind of penalty. And, again, there is no sign that Google or FeedBurner doesn’t let you opt out without penalty. In fact, it has consistently made it easier to opt out, introducing both a redirect service for those who want to stop using it and the MyBrand service which lets you use your own domain for the feed rather than feeds.feedburner.com. This means you can opt out and just put the feed at the same address on your own domain that FeedBurner has been using, meaning no interruption to your feed at all.

What FeedBurner does is offer additional services which are built on top of RSS and/or Atom. You can add things like Technorati links, ads within your feed, and plenty more. Or you can leave your feed completely unchanged, and just use it to find out how many subscribers you have. The choice belongs to the user. The sum total of Dave’s argument is that Google might break RSS, and there’s simply no evidence it will do that. Nor would it be to Google’s benefit to do so.

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    Technovia: Michael Gartenberg – Big Companies Taking over RSS

    Technovia: Michael Gartenberg – Big Companies Taking over RSS: I like and respect Michael, but in this case he’s absolutely wrong. This all stems from Dave Winer’s post warning people off from FeedBurner, and as I’ve said elsewhere, Dave simply doesn’t…