Today in a very inconspicuous post by Dave Winer, he demonstrated that his new real-time RSS protocol, rssCloud, could very soon be available to the millions of blogs, real-time on WordPress.com. Dave Winer, who played perhaps the most significant role in defining the RSS standard and the subsequent RSS 2.0 standard through which most blogs are read today, is taking the long-known extension to the RSS protocol to the masses with some sort of relationship he has built with Automattic, the owners of WordPress.com.
rssCloud vs. PubSub Hubbub
rssCloud was defined in its early form in 2001 as a solution to provide a “next step” for RSS to get instantaneous updates from blogs or websites wishing to push information immediately to readers. The readers weren’t quite ready for the standard at the time (see the Guitar Scene in Back to the Future), so it sat stale until this year when real-time updates again came to front and center for getting and retrieving massive amounts of information as they happen through sites like Twitter. Dave Winer says he adapted it in order to provide a better, more open microblogging solution that works outside and independent of Twitter.
1. The Writer gets an idea.
2. He or she enters it into the authoring tool, saves, it goes to a file, a feed.
3. The authoring software sends an Update ping to the Cloud (which is just a bit of software running on EC2).
4. The Cloud checks to see if anyone is subscribing to the Writer, and finds that indeed the Aggregator is.
5. He updated! says the Cloud to the Aggregator.
6. The aggregator then reads the feed, finds the new stuff and informs the Reader.
After less than a second the Aggregator has the update and the user is reading the content, real-time.
Pubsub Hubbub works similar. With this protocol, you have a “hub”, rather than the cloud, and the content provider pings the “hub” for every new post. The reader can then request to be notified by the hub (or hubs) if there is any new data. Google has taken the initiative on this particular protocol and is utilizing FeedBurner as their initial hub. The protocol is also designed for mostly blogs, rather than microblogs, which seems to be the space which Winer is targeting with rssCloud.
What’s the difference? Quite honestly I’m trying to figure that out myself. It would seem that the major differences are that a) with rssCloud, feeds expire after 24 hours, so aggregators need to make at least one call a day to notify the Cloud that they want to be notified. This has the advantage in that the Cloud doesn’t have to continue pinging even when aggregators aren’t there, but also increases the number of calls an aggregator must make.
The other difference is that Dave Winer is an individual developer while Google is a big company. If you ask me that doesn’t matter much due to the fact that these are both open protocols and both seek to decentralize the control of our data. Google’s response is disconcerting though where they seem to try and discredit Winer’s protocol. The more of these protocols the better (also see the OpenMicroblogging protocol). However, it is very appealing to see an individual developer, the inventor of RSS, so-to-say, take a protocol that has been around much longer and adapt it to work with modern standards. I want to see Dave succeed, but I hope they all work together. This is a space everyone benefits, despite the competition. Keep in mind that Dave isn’t the only guy behind this protocol either – there is an entire governing board that manages this standard.
Competition for Twitter?
So with this potential development, what does this mean for WordPress? First, millions of blogs will now instantly be real-time in the same way Twitter is real-time. Second, where Dave Winer wants rssCloud to be targeted towards the micro blogging space this could very well mean WordPress could be looking at something in that area to compete with Twitter. I predicted this at the beginning of this year, remember?
Here’s what I see happening: Automattic will utilize its BuddyPress and P2 platforms to create a decentralized microblogging platform that utilizes rssCloud to provide real-time updates. Wordpress.com will be extended to enable “mini-blogs” which accompany your existing blog and provide real time status updates anyone can subscribe to. Clients like Seesmic, TweetDeck, and PeopleBrowsr will utilize the rssCloud protocol as Aggregators and allow you to view all this data in one place in ways you could never do before.
Dave Winer’s demonstration today is HUGE news for the blogging world and decentralized micro-blogging. I can’t wait to see what happens.
UPDATE: You can download the WordPress plugin for rssCloud here. StayNAlive.com is now officially one of the first rssCloud-enabled blogs on the internet.