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RSS 'extensions' published by Microsoft

Re-setting the standard

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Microsoft has released details of a set of proposed extensions to Really Simple Syndication (RSS), billed as making it easier to receive and share data.

A draft of Simple Sharing Extensions (SSE) version 0.9 for RSS 2.0, and Outline Processor Markup Language (OPML), has been published under the Creative Commons license by Microsoft.

SSE has been primarily devised as a way to improve the way data, like calendar or contacts information, is delivered to different devices, and shared or replicated. Microsoft said SSE could be used to replicate RSS-enabled calendar entries among groups or to enter new appointments when users are not online.

If this sounds familiar to those using IBM's Lotus Notes, it should. SSE was conceived after Microsoft's recently recruited chief technology officer Ray Ozzie brainstormed with members of the Exchange, Outlook, MSN, Windows Mobile and Messenger Communicator product teams shortly after he joined.

Ozzie is the father of Lotus Notes, groupware and collaboration technology that pioneered the concepts of pushing and replicating data to different devices and distributed users. Microsoft spent the latter half of the 1990s trying to unseat Notes in businesses, launching Exchange Sever as its groupware alternative.

News Microsoft was tinkering with RSS first emerged in August, with plans to re-name RSS as "web feeds" in the next version of Internet Explorer (IE), for use with Windows Vista and Windows XP.

Any attempt to "extend" RSS will be greeted with concern that Microsoft is trying to interfere with a popular standard or technology rather than throw its full corporate backing behind the existing industry standard. Past examples of such behaviour include Microsoft's "optimization" of Sun Microsystems' Java and "extensions" added to the Kerberos security standard that was implemented by Microsoft in Windows 2000.

In its defense, Microsoft said SSE defines the "minimum" extensions necessarily for loosely coupled applications that use RSS to share information.

Product groups within Microsoft have already begun building prototypes of SSE, but Ozzie said it was "too soon" to say where SSE would be used. Additionally, Microsoft said SSE is "distinct from other work within Microsoft related to RSS", including RSS support for Windows Vista and Simple List Extensions to RSS, for web sites to publish lists.®

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