For a few years throughout the mid 1990′s, several ideas had been tossed around about developing methods of syndicating material, content and updated publications from websites and media outlets. There were even a select few that developed early formats and programs that could somewhat perform this concept.
“Backweb” and “Pointcast” was two of these prototypes to syndication. Though a pretty nifty idea, there was still so much that needed researched and developed before an actual smooth running format could be formed.
In 1994, Apple Computers hired a computer scientist named Ramanathan V. Guhu. Guhu came with almost the entire alphabet preceding his name and credentials. He had graduated B-Tech in Mechanical Engineering; MS from California Berkley and the coup de-grace, a PHD from Stanford. Impressive, indeed.
While working at Apple, Guhu developed a format called “Meta Content Framework”, or MCF. Simply explained, the primary structure within MCF format was creating metadata from information within websites.
Metadata, though defined by mind boggling and knee buckling algorithms, essentially means collecting and creating data from data and/or information about information.
Though another aspect of MCF, also created by Guhu, was a program called “Hotsauce”. Hotsauce could take the table of contents from within any website and created a 3-D visual of everything within it. Again, very impressive.
In 1997 a company called “Userland” had developed what they believed was an ingenious idea of having a way for subscribers to follow their updated news headlines on a regular basis. Userland launched the very first method of a formatted system that could syndicate website publications, called “ScriptingNews”.
Scriptingnews was the brainchild of a man named Dave Winer. His format was utilizing a language called XML.
Around the same time, in 1997, Ramanathan had parted ways with the folks at Apple and began working at a company called Netscape that was quickly becoming a very popular web browsing service provider. Not long after his hiring, Guhu met Tim Bray and they went to work on a newer version of MCF that was taking the version created by Dave Winer, and was using the formatting language of XML. Later, Guhu would team up with Netscape’s Dan Libby to take the technology within MDF, using the XML, and turn the metadata structuring format into Resource; Development; Framework; or RDF.
Unfortunately for Userland, at the time, not only was their format not really turning heads as they had hoped, another company had come along with their own version of a similar format and although Userland had a two year head start, the newer version was being launched by, at the time, a trusted computer internet technologies guru, as well as one of the most popular and well-known companies in the Northern Hemisphere, “Netscape”.
So it was that in 1999, Netscape launched a format that would grab all the glory and attention that Userland had banked on. The “RDF” Site Summary was out to take the internet by storm. Basically, the idea behind RDF was to use the metadata system to gather all the vital statistics and information from a websites’ general information pool, its table of contents.
As most new things we have yet to fully understand the potential of goes, the RDF format was getting its accolades, though not as quickly as first thought. Libby believed RDF should be flying through networks and growing much faster. It needed tweaked some more.
Libby decided a change was due. The overall basic idea and technology was in place, the format simply needed another platform to expand. So Libby and Guhu revamped RDF by essentially throwing out all their own incorporated RDF format and bringing in Dave Winer’s more technologically advanced version, as well as renaming the project RSS or “Rich Site Summary”.
RSS 0.9 launched in 1999 and as expected, with Dave Winer’s added version of formatting, it was popping corks in offices all over the World Wide Web. However, for Libby and Guhu, Netscape was changing hands and the new owner, AOL, already had quite a bit on its plate.
So Guhu, Libby and the powers that be at Netscape signed the rights over to, what they believed at the time was a formatted version that had grown past its limits, back over to where it all began, Dave Winer’s Scriptingnews over at Userland.
Winer released an even newer version of RSS, 0.91 and had all the copyrights in his hands. Now that his syndicating baby was back in his hands, Winer could raise the roof to whatever height he could take his RSS feeds.
Now that Dave Winer’s RSS feeds were sparking an entire generation of syndication capabilities among publication sites such as news outlets and blog entries, he saw another platform online that could benefit from the ability to transfer data into syndication; audio and video.
In 2000, Winer released RSS 0.92 and changed the limits once again. Now, audio and video files could be taken from sites and brought back to the subscribers just as the blog entries and news publications could. Podcasting was born.
Dave was on a role and kept his foot on the throttle. 2002 he unleashed RSS 0.93 and drafts for 0.94. The wolves were circling and dollar signs, copyrights and even backdoor applications, and even a copycat format called “Atom” started popping up in Winer’s mirror every time he looked up.
In 2003, he signed the copyright to his beloved RSS over to Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society. This was his way to protect RSS, as well as create an advisory board that would oversee RSS and provide companies and websites with answers and solutions to their RSS needs.
After all the ideas that came and went, Dave Winer had showed the world exactly how to effectively syndicate their content, as well as set up an RSS feed in order to receive all the publications and updated headlines and material from all the sites they had interest in.
Because of Winer’s efforts, beginning in 2005, the now famous “RSS” logo began being used in browsers such as Mozzila Firefox, Microsoft Internet Explorer and Microsoft Outlook.
Just as Winer always viewed his creation, the sky can not limit his format of syndication. RSS feeds are now everywhere on the internet. In fact, RSS is even being used in the internet’s “clouds”.