How podcasting saved RSS 2.0

Dan Cederholm asks the relevant questions about weblog syndication formats:

“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.”

The competition between Dave Winer and the Atom folks seemed pretty intense a year ago. Six Apart has pretty much shunned RSS from the beginning, preferring RDF and then Atom. Blogger made the controversial move from RSS 0.9 back in the Blogger Pro days, to Atom-only, and switched to the Atom API instead of the widely-deployed Blogger API that they developed. Atom gained a bunch of momentum, and steps to make it an official standard were well underway.

But then something interesting happened that no one expected, and it happened almost overnight: Atom was obsoleted.

RSS 2.0 won not because of the enormous number of major RSS 2.0 sites (although that helped), or because it was better (it’s not, really). It won because of podcasting. It all came together for me when I read Evan Williams post about podcasting and RSS, and he didn’t mention Atom at all.

It’s clear by all the wp-rss.xml files out there that many of the Movable Type 2.x users are migrated to WordPress. The price of Movable Type 3.0 is hard to justify for personal sites, or even business ones for that matter.

The influence that Six Apart and Google had on syndication formats is vanishing. In the end it wasn’t even about politics at all.