Microsoft RSS Patent Update: Manipulate, Maneuver and Morph

After reading this post and writing this one, I have more clarity on Microsoft’s approach with RSS since I just got done reading the whole patent (can you see my eyes glazing over?).

They’re NOT attempting to control the RSS protocol, but their patent is a platform play designed around controlling the RSS processes and paths in order to manipulate, maneuver and morph RSS itself. The operative and important paragraph is this one at the end:

[0150] The web content syndication platform described above can be utilized to manage, organize and make available for consumption content that is acquired from the Internet. The platform can acquire and organize web content, and make such content available for consumption by many different types of applications. These applications may or may not necessarily understand the particular syndication format. An application program interface (API) exposes an object model which allows applications and users to easily accomplish many different tasks such as creating, reading, updating, deleting feeds and the like. In addition, the platform can abstract away a particular feed format to provide a common format which promotes the useability of feed data that comes into the platform. Further, the platform processes and manages enclosures that might be received via a web feed in a manner that can make the enclosures available for consumption to both syndication-aware applications and applications that are not syndication-aware.

My “co-opting RSS” concern from the last post still stands and this is why…

In the same way that most people are highly suspect when dominant, monopolistic tech companies attempt to control transaction gateways and build significant repositories of personal data (remember Hailstorm?), I’m instantly suspect of an RSS engine patent — with the sweeping scope of this one — which is clearly a process patent intended to “own” not the RSS protocol…but most of the ways it will be used.

Are there some good things in here? Absolutely. I love the aspects of the patent that seemingly position RSS in a web services way and give it state attributes. This is cool since RSS itself is “dumb” and it’s the intelligence in the application layer that makes it useful. I highly dislike, for instance, that I publish a blog post and — should I make a mistake, fix it and republish — my post has already been sent out in a syndicated way and my subscribers don’t receive updates or corrections. Management of the stream and the content — in essence building in some intelligence around the content inside the RSS wrapper — gives it incredible additional value.

Somebody should call Apple and let them know that podcasting inside of iTunes is history if this patent gets approved. Also, for those of us thinking about rich, internet applications (RIA’s) that leverage RSS feeds to aggregate content from disparate sources, you’d better call your patent attorney NOW and get them started on clarification and defense.


  1. dave darwin on December 21, 2006 at 7:54 pm

    There are 40 companies out there that built systems like this years before microsoft filed this patent. feeddemon, netnewswire, bloglines, moreover, feedburner, my yahoo, ah it’s too boring to continue. If this makes it through the application process, we’re doomed. if this is what microsoft calls an innovation, they’re really really doomed.

  2. Open Parenthesis on December 30, 2006 at 10:04 am

    Microsoft RSS

    Whats really behind Microsofts patent applications related to RSS?
    Initial reports that Microsoft was trying to patent RSS turn out to be at best over-simplified.
    At issue isnt RSS itself, or an RSS reader, or feed pu…

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Podcasting hit the mainstream in July of 2005 when Apple added podcast show support within iTunes. I'd seen this coming so started podcasting in May of 2005 and kept going until August of 2007. Unfortunately was never 'discovered' by national broadcasters, but made a delightfully large number of connections with people all over the world because of these shows. Click here to view the archive of my podcast posts.