mnot’s blog

Design depends largely on constraints.” — Charles Eames

Wednesday, 28 May 2003


One-Man Standards

Dave Winer argues that RSS implementers should toe the line:

The same philosophy dictates an end to the disagreement over RSS. If they want respect for the formats and protocols they implement, they must do RSS exactly as UserLand does. The thing that Blogger and MT currently call RSS is not only not what UserLand does but it isn’t even an improvement over what UserLand does. Lose-lose.

This would make sense if Dave’s version of RSS were the only one defined, or if it had clear market advantage. However, it doesn’t; by all measures, RSS 0.91 is the most commonly used flavour of RSS, not 2.0, and 1.0 has a respectable following as well. So, for him to demand fealty from other Weblog vendors seems to be coming at it a bit high, to say the least.

Don Box and Sam Ruby are trying this in a different way; they’re developing a profile of RSS on their Weblogs. While this is a bit more collaborative, it doesn’t represent the whole community; some people don’t read their blogs, and more to the point, not everyone has confidence that their positions will count.

Now, despite being a standards geek by day, I don’t believe that standards are always - or even often - the best path forward. However, when there are multiple, roughly equivalent solutions for the same problem, and innovation stalls because there isn’t a clear winner, standardization makes sense, so that the market can move on and build on a common base.

What’s important here isn’t the technical work; it’s almost beside the point. What’s important is the wide acceptance and stability that standardization provides; it can’t be achieved by any one person or faction, because they don’t represent the whole market. A recognized standards organization can make this claim.