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Comments for Standardizing the Atom Thread Extension



I am Byrne Reese. I create stuff.



 



Standardizing the Atom Thread ExtensionStandardizing the Atom Thread Extension

2007-01-15T22:33:42Z

I have been an advocate for the Atom Feed Thread extension for quite sometime, and am an active developer of it. Within Six Apart I have helped deploy the extension across over 1 million Friendster blogs, I have developed my... I have been an advocate for the Atom Feed Thread extension for quite sometime, and am an active developer of it. Within Six Apart I have helped deploy the extension across over 1 million Friendster blogs, I have developed my own plugin for Movable Type to make it easier for users to take advantage of this extension and I am actively working to deploy the extension across all Six Apart products and services. This extension is actually in the final stages of becoming a standard – which is fantastic. Fantastic for James because he may finally see the fruits of his labor which entailed ushering this specification through the IETF (no small task), taking feedback in the form of hundreds of emails and countless phone calls, and authoring over 10 different drafts of the Feed Thread specification. But James’ ego aside, this extension is great for syndication industry as well. First, when this extension becomes a standard it will validate and fulfill an important part of the Atom Working Group charter - to define a feed format that was easily extended by third parties. Some will argue that this has already been accomplished by companies like Google which released their own custom Atom extension(s) to support Google Calendar, but I believe this milestone of the Thread extension becoming a standard is much more significant because it sets an important precedent. It demonstrates the value of the standards process plays not only in defining the core protocol, but in defining extensions as well. To illustrate why this process can be important, let’s take a look at a similar effort to solve the comment feed problem through a process driven primarily by individuals operating in a relative vacuum: RSS. The first implementation of a comments element in RSS was introduced by slashdot. In this first incarnation of a comment extension to RSS, slashdot was only trying to syndicate the number of comments associated with a post. There was no desire to syndicate the comments themselves. To this day, slashdot’s implementation remains the same: a element containing the number of comments associated with an item. This suited the market for a time, but eventually it failed to meet the market’s evolving demands. So the market invented another comment extension for RSS. This time, a comments element was introduced by an individual that would provide a pointer to an endpoint where new comments could be posted via a proprietary Comment API. Ok, I can see how this is useful, and perhaps even “cool.” It also serves as another example of how extensible RSS really is. But yet again, this new extension failed to meet the market’s needs. So yet another individual proposed and created yet another RSS comments extension. This extension provided a new element called which provided a pointer to an RSS feed which would contain all the comments associated with the containing item. Now we are getting somewhere, finally there is a predictable way to syndicate data that might actually be useful to third parties hungry to consume more and more data in an easier fashion. In fact, this extension proved useful enough that is was eventually folded into the RSS 2.0 specification - proof positive that RSS is open to change and that the efforts by the community are realized and folded into the core specification. One of the problems as I see it though are that by using any or all of them in combination with one another one can royally confuse the semantics of their feed by having elements named: , , and/or (depending). Some may not think this is a problem, but others want their XML documents to actually be descriptive and semantically valid. (I hap[...]