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Nonprofit takes hold of blog tool

The Berkman Center for Internet & Society becomes the keeper of the RSS spec, which could alleviate fears about the future of the Web log-building tool.

The Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School is the new keeper of the specification for a popular Web log tool.

The Berkman Center took over ownership of the Really Simple Syndication (RSS) 2.0 specification this week after UserLand, a company owned by RSS 2.0 author David Winer, transferred the copyright to the center.

RSS, also known as rich site summary, is an XML-based format for content distribution that is becoming increasingly popular tool in creating online personal journals known as Web logs, or "blogs." The technology allows people to create, and Web users to access, content such as news and observations that can be automatically syndicated to other Web sites.

Jon Udell, a member of the Berkman Center's newly established advisory board for the specification, said he hopes the board can spread the word about RSS.

"It hasn't really gone as far as it could have and should have by now," said Udell, who is also a columnist for O'Reilly Network.

Some Web users had worried that ownership of RSS by any one business would give that company too much control over its development. The transfer of the specification to a nonprofit center should alleviate those concerns, blogging experts expect.

On a Web site set up to announce the change, the advisory board said its first step would be to review the specification and check for any broken links and other documentation glitches.

The board will also work to educate the public about the benefits of RSS 2.0 and to help developers, according to the Berkman Center announcement.

"The world still doesn't really know about RSS," Winer said. "It's sort of this great secret that out there."

In addition to Winer and Udell, the board includes Brent Simmons of Ranchero Software, which makes RSS application NetNewsWire.