MS: Forget OPML, Use Windows RSS

With the first public preview release of Internet Explorer 7, Microsoft has outlined its plans to bring RSS into the core of Windows, opening up APIs and a "Common Feed List" for all applications to access. The advantage, the company says, is an end to bothering with OPML thanks to a unified storage for feed data.

OPML, or Outline Processor Markup Language, is an XML format for outlines that has been popularized for use in exchanging lists of RSS feeds between RSS aggregators. For example, a user can export a list of feeds from one location into OPML and easily import them into another application or Web based service.

Microsoft is hoping to do away with that process by creating a full-featured "platform" for RSS directly in Windows. While RSS will be natively supported in Windows Vista, Microsoft is also extending the same support to Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 through Internet Explorer 7.

Although some may be wary of Microsoft controlling the central repository for RSS feed lists, the company says there are a number of advantages to such integration. The company also thinks the features will help transition RSS from a niche technology into mainstream use.

"When you discover and subscribe to feeds in IE7, it adds them to the Common Feed List and the new subscription is available to other applications. Not only can the user benefit from multiple applications using the Common Feed List, but we expect that over time, online services will provide tools that synchronize the Common Feed List with their services," explained one IE program Manager.

Such compatibility would allow for users to access their subscription list not only between applications, but also when roaming on other computers. Some online RSS aggregators have offered such functionality, but require a Web browser be used to browse feeds.

"So far, Microsoft doesn't appear to be trying to hijack RSS but more provide a platform for extending subscription capabilities to other applications. How Microsoft proceeds will be telling and demonstrate the extent of commitment to standards, particularly with IE 7," Jupiter Research senior analyst Joe Wilcox commented to BetaNews.

In addition to the Common Feed List, the Windows RSS Platform is comprised of two other components: Feed Synchronization Engine and Feed Store.

These components will provide support for every major RSS and Atom format, along with a number of extensions, directly through Windows APIs. Applications can take advantage of bandwidth-friendly downloads of things like podcasts through Windows' Background Intelligent Transfer Service, and access feed data as objects or a raw XML stream.

Microsoft says it plans to announce further details on the API, features and implementation of the Windows RSS Platform over the coming weeks. A special RSS team blog has been setup specifically for this purpose.

"RSS potential looks promising, but, buttom line, there needs to be revenue opportunity, whether making or saving money. Microsoft's RSS platform is a step towards making that opportunity real," added Jupiter's Wilcox.

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