RSS for Data Synchronization

Exciting news out of Redmond. Ray Ozzie is bringing his experience and approach to synchronization that he applied to his earlier products Lotus Notes and Groove to Microsoft’s implimentation of RSS. We can look for future products such as their hosted Live products suite to include these synchronization features and Ray has published a post which points to an FAQ of these new extensions that Microsoft is proposing. Simple Sharing Extensions will add to the RSS specification to use it to do multi-directional synchronization of data sources. From the FAQ:

What kinds of scenarios does SSE enable?

Just as RSS enables the aggregation of information from a variety of data sources, SSE enables the replication of information across a variety of data sources. Data sources that implement SSE will be able to exchange data with any other data source that also implements SSE.

From the user’s perspective, this means that you will be able to share your data (such as calendar appointments, contact lists, and favorites) across all of your devices and with anyone else that you choose, regardless of infrastructure or organization.

SSE is particularly useful for scenarios in which there are multiple masters and/or asynchronous updates. For example, SSE could be used to share your work calendar with your spouse—either of you could enter new appointments, even if not currently connected. Similarly, SSE could be used to replicate a set of calendar entries among a group of people, each working in a different company and using different infrastructure.

To do this SSE, "introduces concepts such as per-item change history (to manage item versions and update conflicts) and tombstones (to propagate deletions, and un-deletions)." Microsoft is clearly taking the lead of embracing and extending the functionality of RSS. I saw a little of this back in June when they demonstrated a hacked version of an RSS reader that added sorting widgets to an RSS feed. I believe Microsoft is actively looking to RSS as the proxy for Exchange in the open and standards-based world of Web 2.0.

But the best part is that these extensions are going to be released under a Creative Commons license so that their initial work can be expanded by third parties and avoid vendor lock-in.

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