Three simple ways to improve RSS consumption

Today Dave Winer invited us to start talking about ways to help move RSS forward. Here are three simple ways that I think could make RSS easier to consume:

  1. Encourage the adoption of distributing RSS feeds in JSON and JSONP formats. This would allow for a much simplified feed consumption in languages that support these formats. I’m looking at you, JavaScript.
  2. Require a unique ID per item (guid) or propose a standardized way of computing a unique ID if one is not provided. Currently, consumers of the feed are left to decide how to uniquely identify items if a unique ID is not provided. This is often implemented as a combination (hash) of item sub-elements (link, title, pubDate, etc). Requiring a unique ID, or developing a standard formula for computing one, would make determining the uniqueness of an item much easier.
  3. Add a version identifier or modification date to each item that is updated every time the feed item is changed. This would be separate from the pubDate element to assist consumers in determining when an item was first published and when an item has been updated in the feed. Currently, consumers either ignore updated items entirely, or record duplicate items when they are modified.

While these are not “revolutionary” in any sense, it’s small changes like these that I think can help move RSS forward.