Most typically, RSS is used by news publishers and bloggers to notify subscribers when new information has been posted. It is also used by podcasters to alert listeners to new available audio.
Microsoft is proposing an extension to RSS that would allow it to better support ordered lists of information. Today, RSS feeds are sent and read merely as a stream of messages, with the order being determined according to the time the messages were sent. Microsoft is proposing a way to add ordering information so that an RSS feed could better handle things like an e-commerce site's list of best-selling items or calendar information ordered by the date of an event rather than when the appointment was created.
"Lists are all over the place, and people are starting to move them around via RSS, and they are not the usual kind of data that has been carried by RSS in the past, influential blogging pioneer Dave Winer said in a posting late Wednesday. "The people at Microsoft noticed something that I had seen, only peripherally--that there were applications of RSS that aren't about news. Like Audible's NY Times Best Seller list, or an iTunes music playlist, or lists of Sharepoint documents, or browser bookmarks."
A formal announcement of the effort is expected Friday at the Gnomedex conference in Seattle, Winer said.
Microsoft confirmed that it is backing an effort to add support for ordered lists but would not go into detail ahead of Friday's announcement.
Winer also hinted that RSS may be assuming a more central role at Microsoft, noting that there is a team devoted to the syndication standard.
"On Friday you'll see how deeply integrated RSS is in the architecture of the browser," Winer said in his blog posting. "But that's just the tip of what may turn out to be a very big iceberg."