Dean Hachamovitch, from the Microsoft "RSS Team". Very interesting that there is an RSS Team at Microsoft. The whole Microsoft bunch is all wearing "Longhorn (Heart) RSS", which would seem to indicate that there's some big news coming. MSN Spaces purportedly has more than 14 million users, over 1500 Microsoft employees are blogging and all MSN Search feeds include a link to a feed. Their new tagline is Browse. Search. Subscribe. It's on the back of their t-shirts, in fact.
Sounds to me a lot like they are planning to be the Tivo of the online world. In fact, Dean just mentioned the first time he met someone with a Tivo. Imagine that browsing and searching won't go away, as you'll find new information. But being able to then subscribe to that information is where the power lies. Apparently Longhorn will have a "big bet" on RSS.
This means three things. First, that throughout Windows, RSS is enabled and "just easy". Second, providing an RSS platform to make it easier for developers to RSS-enable everything. More than just in the browser and aggregator. Third is making it easy for everyone to just use.
Recent build of Longhorn now on-screen. IE7 is coming. Allegedly we are the first to see this in a public forum. RSS support in the browser. When the browser encounters a page with a feed, there is an RSS button that "lights up" and will display the feed with a sort of XSL stylesheet, so you don't see all the ugly XML. Looks nice.
There is also a "plus" button that allows you to subscribe to the site. This would seem to indicate that IE7 and/or Longhorn has a built-in aggregator of sorts. An example is searching MSN Search, which results in an RSS feed, that you can then read and/or add to your subscriptions.
IE7 does this through a "common feed list", which stores all the feeds in the subscription, and that list will then be availble to all other applications in Windows. This means another application - in this case, RSS Bandit - was updated to allow the application to synchronize with the common feed list.
This allows the feeds to be shared across the entire platform, which encapsulates the complexity. This allows moving from blogs and news to audio podcasting to delivery of any content - pictures, spreadsheets, presentations, calendar events, etc.
They are using an example of the Gnomedex Schedule, which did not have an RSS feed, so they created one. This sample feed includes an enclosure of an iCal file, containing the events. This can then be subscribed to, for instance in Outlook. So using IE7, the feed is added to the common feed list, and then a simple C# program was written to check for events that can be added into Outlook - using the 2003 Document Object Model - and include those items as attachments in the calendar.
I don't know the detials, but the calendar items just showed up in Outlook - I'm assuming that the DOM supports this, it just needs to get at the data. This is really pretty cool. They haven't addressed updates to that feed, so I'm not sure how those would work - but it is a nice feature. Looking forward to seeing more about it. Being able to have your applications follow information, rather than having to go hunt for it, would be very nice.
Another implementation is to take a series of photos embedded in a feed (via the enclosure tag) and creating a simple screen saver application that allows the parsing of those photos out of the feed and creating a slideshow, complete with captions drawn from the feed. Really nice way of looking at a photoblog.
Now we are looking at a list of content - in this case, a feed that contains Amazon wish list items. In this case, it's easy to add items to a list (in case someone adds an item to their list, for instance), but it's not currently easy to remove items. By marking this feed as a "list", as opposed to a current feed, it's possible to not only add items, but to remove them and even to move things within the list - from #10 to #1, for instance. Neat.
Additional metadata in the feed can include information such as product type (DVD, music) or item data (date added, price) and build a user interface on-the-fly based on that data, all contained within the feed. In this case, the list is apparently "live" data on Amazon, but I'm not certain that it's available to the public at this point. It does seem to work well, but there are only half a dozen lists at this point. Still, it's nice.
Moreover, these "Simple List Extensions" are being made available under a Creative Commons license. The license type hasn't been specified at this point, but I suspect they will do it in a way to encourage others to use the format. More is supposed to be available (within an hour) at this site. Longhorn beta 1 is on the way this summer, and it should have more detail on the RSS features.