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Is Microsoft trying to rename RSS?

MSN executive defends firm against blogger accusations

An MSN executive has defended Microsoft's rebranding of RSS (Really Simple Syndication) into ‘web feeds’ after a flurry of Microsoft bloggers accused the software giant of trying to recast the technology in its own image.

In a recent post on his weblog ‘Torres Talking’, Mike Torres, MSN Spaces lead program manager, made a clear distinction between the branding of RSS and the underlying technology. He also said that Microsoft is adding its own functionality to RSS in the version the company is implementing in Internet Explorer 7.0.

Because of this, its renaming of RSS is not a sign that the company is trying to remake the technology for its own purposes but rather a way to make a distinction between RSS and a feature of IE.

RSS is primarily used by bloggers and web-based news publishers to keep subscribers informed when new entries or news articles have been posted to websites. Microsoft is adding RSS functionality to the next version of Windows, Windows Vista, primarily through the IE 7.0 version of its web browser. Both Windows Vista and IE 7.0 betas are available now.

"Just because one team at Microsoft [in this case, the IE team] is grappling with the naming of a single feature in a single product [that does a lot more than just RSS], it doesn't automatically mean we are trying to 'reinvent the technology’,” Torres wrote in a weblog posting on 9 August.

Torres was responding to a post the same day by software guru Dave Winer in his weblog ‘Scripting News’ that accused big software companies such as Microsoft and Google of messing with technology they did not invent, a move he called "childish and self-defeating".

"Like it or not Microsoft, the technology is called RSS. If you try to change that, for whatever reason, you will get routed around," wrote Winer. "Like it or not Google, the format is RSS 2.0... Go all the way, and just give it up, and accept the gift, the way it was presented, without trying to edit, revise, fold, spindle or mutilate."

Joe Wilcox, senior analyst at Jupiter Research, says there is no harm in rebranding RSS into a term that is more palatable for the average web user to digest, comparing it to more generally accepted terms for scientific designations.

"In entomology, there's a classification of insects called Lepidoptera, but most people know them as butterflies," he says. "There's always going to be a language that is specific to some industry or group, but that doesn't mean it's the same thing that everyone uses."

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