Friday, March 11, 2005

New protocol could profoundly change newsfeeds

As pointed out to me by blogger Steve Rubel, there's a new XML protocol that's starting to get a lot of support among those in the know. It's called "attention.xml," and is basically a way to add a lot more information to a feed about when items have been published, what those items link to, and who's already checking out the item themselves. If I understand it correctly (and, to be warned, I might not), future RSS readers that understand the Attention protocol could then reorder your feeds for you, right in the software itself, based on different criteria you might tell it to use - to list the newest stuff at the top of the page, no matter what its source, or to list only the newest stuff by certain sources you've labeled a priority, or to list new items based on how many other people have already gone and read it before you (a popularity-based sorting, in other words.)

The power would go in both directions as well, if I'm understanding it correctly; the protocol would basically give all bloggers the power of something like FeedBurner, for example, and give one instant updates on how many people are subscribing to your feed, how many people read any particular entry, how many people end up linking to that entry, etc. And given that the Attention protocol is supposedly going to include a lot more information about what exactly's being talked about, I think one of its future benefits is that it will be able to erase redundant new entries before you have to bother with them; so, like, if the Associated Press does a story on a certain subject, your RSS/Attention reader will automatically delete entries from other newspapers that are basically reprints of the AP story. ...Er, I think, anyway.

Okay, hell, I'm maybe only slightly less confused at this point than you, and I'm going to have to go read the developer's page just as closely as you to figure it all out. But hey, Microsoft guru Robert Scoble says that "[b]y the end of 2005 we'll all know what attention.xml is and why it's important..." Do you really need another reason to check it out in more detail yourself?