Microsoft seeks to patent RSS

by Kurt Cagle

Announced today, Microsoft has apparently applied for the patent on "web feeds". This is one of those announcements that make people roll their eyes up in their heads in puzzlement and disgust, in what I think in this case is perhaps justified anger. The issue in contention is basically that the Microsoft CDF format, which appeared very briefly in Internet Explorer largely in reaction to similar formats appearing in beta versions of Netscape. Both companies were attempting at that time to try to exploit the perception that the Internet would end up becoming the next TV (true, ironically, though by a very circuitous route that took a decade or more to make happen).

Most of the analysis I've seen on this would tend to push the idea that Microsoft is doing it to flush out patent trolls in preparation of the consumer rollout of Longhorn/Vista. It's unlikely that they will succeed in actually gaining the patent - given the rather late date of the patent and the fact that there was in fact a fair amount of prior art even at that time mitigates against it, but I think there's another facet here to the attempt that's bothered me about XML-oriented patents for quite some time.


2006-12-26 16:28:18
Kurt, how much do you and Dave Peterson talk? I haven't seen/heard a podcast from you both for a while, but it's fairly clear that you and he have some major philosophical differences. Dave seems inclined to defend Microsoft's right to the RSS patent, while you (and I, BTW) would argue against anyone's right to patent ANY software - or indeed (as you argue) data structures such as XML.
Kurt Cagle
2006-12-26 16:47:16
We actually talk on nearly a weekly basis, and the lack of podcasts has not been because of any fallout between us but simply due to both of us being entirely too busy with other projects to find the time. I rather like the differing viewpoints, and in general I recognize the validity of his arguments even if I don't always agree with them. I'm Ebert, he's more the late, lamented Siskel (sorry David ;-)

I think this is worth another point as well. I'm not anti-Microsoft ... though I have to admit that I'm not terribly pro-Microsoft either. I am against any company that exhibits bad behavior, and I think that for all the power that Microsoft has, it often tends to act in ways that run counter to its own long-term interests, and certainly counter to the interests of its customers. Pointing out that the emperor has no clothes is not in general a lucrative position (and at times can be downright dangerous to your professional health), but sometimes it is one that needs to be taken.

2006-12-26 20:48:18
Actually, this ought to be very entertaining.

No one thought EOLAS had legs either, and competitively, it shouldn't have but logically and by the dates that could be proved, it did. Who knew? The owner of the patent did and so did the capital people behind him. He certainly didn't do anything significant except file. If that's all it takes, Microsoft may indeed own web podcasting patents of extremely high value. Someone with some time and expertise pull out the 'essential claims' and draw the graphs.

Ah the joy of the web: piracy gone legit.

Frank Wilhoit
2006-12-27 08:46:05
"XML is a data/document format, and as such it is essentially the codification of a formal data structure using an open notation."

Shocking, at this late date, how many people still don't get that!

Mike B
2007-01-02 14:52:04
CDF was actually being used in very similar ways as RSS is today. It just wasn't widely adopted due to the lack of easy to use blog software that auto-generated the files for non-programmers. I worked at PointCast at the time, and we implemented CDF fetching into the PointCast Network. Many small publishers and pre-blog blog type sites used it to feed into our client and also into Active Desktop.

I think the poor implementation of Active Desktop is what killed the format since it really had no other supporters after PointCast died.

2007-01-22 20:38:29
I just don't have anything to say right now. I haven't been up to anything recently, but it's not important. I've just been sitting around waiting for something to happen, but shrug.
2007-01-25 21:30:25
I can't be bothered with anything these days, but shrug. I just don't have anything to say recently. I haven't gotten much done recently. Nothing seems worth thinking about.