The tech blogosphere hasn't exactly been inspiring me lately. With topics like "is this the end of the financial world" (it isn't) and "Is Blogging dead because of Twitter" (it isn't) there hasn't been much to respond to.
So I thought I'd take on one of those "rights of passage" that every tech blogger needs to weigh in on instead. I don't like this topic but I was going to have to tackled it some day.
RSS Vs. Atom
It really is pretty simple from my view. Atom is an improvement on RSS. The Atom standard looked at RSS, determined "what's right" and "what's wrong" with RSS and then tried to save what was right while fixing what was wrong. Atom would not exist without RSS and RSS deserves reverence for that but that doesn't mean Atom isn't better.
More over, Atom is necessary to move syndication forward. Programmers trying to use feeds need to know what format the payload is in. Programmers need a set way to extend the syndication format they are using. Programmers need a valid timestamp.
Its telling that Microsoft, who is desperate to suck up to the community on this issue, chose to support RSS but did so by essentially converting it to Atom.
Beyond technical issues RSS is too mired in politics. I'm in favor of the improvements that Roger Cadenhead and co. made but no one's paying attention to them (or to that RSS Advisory committee) so it doesn't matter much. RSS supporters have made their support of it into a religion and religions don't get revised.
THAT is the problem. Technology, and science in general for that matter, should not be turned into a religion. It should change as our knowledge expands.
As I said, I put this post off because its one of those rare topics that really does make me angry. Especially at Bloggers, including those I normally admire, who claim that RSS should stay the same forever.
That said, and for the record, I'm not a zealot. If you have software that only support RSS I'm not saying you should rush to rewrite your software. This is a change that needs to be done by attrition and if all the new software comes out supporting Atom we'll eventually get to where we need to be. Its important for the future but not necessarily urgent in the present.
That said, it does need to be done. It's time to move on and realize that RSS doesn't serve all the purposes it needs to anymore. Technology is not religion and people who claim to love technology should support the improvement of it.
Addendum: For the record, as a semantic web supporter, I wish we'd ended up with an RDF based syndication format. But Atom will do and maybe some day we can move on from there.