One topic that has been noticeably missing on this blog is the classic RSS vs. Atom debate. Some day I'll probably do a quick post on it but I have to admit that the subject doesn't interest me that much. This is because I realized a while back that it just doesn't matter.
Both are nothing more than short term stop-gaps in the final analysis.
Every gadget or piece of software is backed up by an ideal. For TV the ideal is to reproduce an image exactly as it is in real life, for an x-ray machine it's to perfectly represent the inside of a human body and for a car it's to move from Point A to Point B in a way comfortable enough that you don't realize you're moving.
But because technology can't quite match the ideal yet each one of the above examples falls short. That's something we have to accept in life but that doesn't mean we stop wanting the ideal. That's why everyone was fine with their normal TVs until HDTV came along.
We accept current limitations but deep down we know they're just a stop-gap until something closer to the ideal comes along.
In that same way RSS and Atom is a stop-gap. The ideal they represent is the instantaneous delivery of relevant information to the user. But neither are instantaneous and that is the flaw of "Pull" based technology in general. Which in turn is why it will eventually be replaced.
So how do we move from one technology to another? Generally little parts of the technology are created one by one. Each of these technologies on their own don't solve the problem but eventually someone comes along to tie them all together in a product that works better than the current system. That solution then replaces the stop-gap with something closer to the ideal.
Right now we're well into that process on the syndication front. All the pieces are already there in the form of Cellular Phones, SMS, MMS, Blackberry,Exchange Servers and a plethora of other "push" technologies. They sit just waiting for someone to string them together into a better solution. When that happens RSS and Atom are done and since the technology is already widespread we're probably close to the end of RSS/Atom's cycle.
The only piece not in widespread use yet is the technology on the delivery end. Have you noticed people have been talking about XMPP a lot lately?
XMPP may not be the answer but the concept is there and eventually a technology similar to it is going to be adopted. When that happens "push" is going to rule the day. I'm not saying "pull" is going to disappear tomorrow but its days are definitely numbered. So you can debate all you want about RSS vs Atom, in the end technology (as it seems to always do) will solve the conflict for you. Better to spend your time thinking about the future in my opinion...