Two extremely interesting and related pieces of information about RSS have come out in the past 24 hours.
First, "How feeds will change the way content is distributed, valued and consumed," an 8-page PDF report from FeedBurner CEO Dick Costolo.
There is quite a bit of technically-focused information in Dick's report, much of which goes a bit over my head. However, a couple of major points immediately caught my attention.
The report makes it clear that RSS feeds are rapidly-evolving as a delivery mechanism that goes far beyond blogs:
[...] In early 2003, it was probably accurate to say that almost all blogs had feeds and almost all feeds were derived from a blog. Today, however, while almost all blogs still have feeds, there are innumerable feeds that are unrelated to blogs. Commercial publishers have embraced feeds wholeheartedly; most web services and many search engines now provide subscribed results; and podcasts and videocasts are entirely feed-based while not necessarily tied to blogs.
The bold emphasis is mine as this is a key point in what's happening with RSS. Why? Because I think RSS will develop (is developing) beyond purely being a delivery mechanism and becoming a content connection source as well as a content provider in its own right, and not tied to a specific place on the web (eg, a blog).
This is what the FeedBurner report also gets at when it goes into some detail in discussing the important connection between 'items' (the individual news or information within an RSS feed) and 'threads' (a way to describe meta-data and connect it to items):
[...] If we manage syndicated content at a more atomic level by attaching "threads" to the item, we can provide tools to publishers that enable not just the tracking of the thread, but also use the thread as a communications line between the world of web services and the content item. We can essentially staple rules, patterns, and meta-data to the content in a live and "always on" way, wherever the content goes.
Now, I may not have correctly or even fully grasped the technical bits behind what I see as a significant development in RSS and how organizations can use it as a means both to automatically communicate news and information and connect seemingly-disparate content together. If that's the case and if anyone else has a better description, please let me know.
Which leads me to the second part of this RSS story - the introduction by Microsoft yesterday of Simple Sharing Extensions (SSE), a technical specification that would extend RSS far beyond its one-way operation (or "uni-directional", as Microsoft terms it).
An article in eWeek does a good job in outlining some of the areas where SSE would make RSS become a multi-directional communication channel. This would be valuable to people as a means of enabling them to publish or change information where SSE automatically synchronizes such changes or updates with connected information other people have. The eWeek story uses such every-day things as calendars, contact lists and schedules as examples.
Watch for demos and example applications that no doubt will appear within weeks if not days. That will be the time to best understand how this will work.
[...] Microsoft's new approach to synchronizing RSS and OPML, using methods pioneered in [Ray] Ozzie's earlier work, and keeping the "really simple" approach that's worked so well with networked syndication and outlining, combines the best of our two schools of thought, and this creativity is available for everyone to use.