I merely offer an outsider’s perspective. I don’t study the specs on the 3,749 versions of RSS, nor the newer Atom format, but rather like many of you, I’m a user of these formats.
I realize the debate has been going on for years, with the hopes of creating a single unified standard. But as it stands now, many sites offer a bevvy of formats for the same information: RSS .92, RSS 1.0, RSS 2.0, Atom, etc. Here at SimpleBits, I offer both RSS 2.0 and Atom. Movable Type and other publishing engines make it easy to auto-generate these flavors, but frankly I’d be much happier just offering one version and sticking to it. As simple as it is to create templates, it’s still easier to only have to deal with one.
But I’m wondering where this is all going? Will we forever continue to support multiple RSS formats as well as Atom? Is Atom succeding as a successor to RSS? Will this stop people from using the term “RSS” to describe an Atom feed? It’s all very confusing — and that’s coming from someone who actually understands some of this stuff. Orange XML buttons, RSS buttons, Feed buttons — there’s no one standard for naming it, not to mention what format it actually uses.
One could argue that it doesn’t matter — that the CMS does all the heavy lifting, and why should I care if I’m pumping out 20 different files with the same information in them? But that sounds awfully familiar. In the world of web design, we know that it doesn’t have to be that way — that a single lean, meaningful XHTML file can alleviate multi-version hell. We just need that single, lean, meaningful RSS/XMLfeed/Atom file as well. Maybe?
I know that plenty of smart folks are working hard on this stuff every day. I’m just noting the current state of XML feeds (I suppose the only safe name to call all this stuff) as seen by someone who isn’t an expert.