Dave Winer, 56, is a visiting scholar at NYU's Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute and editor of the Scripting News weblog. He pioneered the development of weblogs, syndication (RSS), podcasting, outlining, and web content management software; former contributing editor at Wired Magazine, research fellow at Harvard Law School, entrepreneur, and investor in web media companies. A native New Yorker, he received a Master's in Computer Science from the University of Wisconsin, a Bachelor's in Mathematics from Tulane University and currently lives in New York City.
"The protoblogger." - NY Times.
"The father of modern-day content distribution." - PC World.
"Dave was in a hurry. He had big ideas." -- Harvard.
"Dave Winer is one of the most important figures in the evolution of online media." -- Nieman Journalism Lab.
10 inventors of Internet technologies you may not have heard of. -- Royal Pingdom.
One of BusinessWeek's 25 Most Influential People on the Web.
"Helped popularize blogging, podcasting and RSS." - Time.
"The father of blogging and RSS." - BBC.
"RSS was born in 1997 out of the confluence of Dave Winer's 'Really Simple Syndication' technology, used to push out blog updates, and Netscape's 'Rich Site Summary', which allowed users to create custom Netscape home pages with regularly updated data flows." - Tim O'Reilly.
8/2/11: Who I Am.
My 40 most-recent links, ranked by number of clicks.
FYI: You're soaking in it. :-)
Bill Gates didn't invent the PC. Steve Jobs didn't invent graphic operating systems. Marc Andreessen didn't invent the web browser.
Mail lists existed long before Craig Newmark started Craig's List. Ward Cunningham implemented the first wiki, but Jimmy Wales built it up to world scale with Wikipedia.
Inventing isn't something that happens the way most people think it does. Or they use the word "invent" as a shorthand.
When people introduce me, they often say I invented RSS. Rather than argue, I smile and accept the compliment and thank them, and enjoy the glow.
But I didn't invent RSS. It isn't the kind of thing that gets invented. Not in the sense of Eureka! I just invented RSS.
If you've ever watched James Burke's Connections series, the invention of RSS was more a chain of events like that. News wires, CDF, XML, Microsoft, Adam Bosworth, Vignette, Netscape (with Wired, Red Herring, Salon and Motley Fool), My.Netscape, My.UserLand, blogging tools, NY Times.
RSS wasn't invented but it did become a standard.
Every step in that chain was necessary to get to the point where the Times could get on board, and there was enough software and users that it mattered. But looking back, the moment when RSS 2.0 came out, followed by the NY Times stories flowing through it, that was the point when the fighting stopped and mass-scale deployment began. That was the moment of standardization. And my contribution was that I marshalled the users, software, content and yes, the tech industry so they were all marching in the same direction. This, imho, was a lot harder than merely having an idea!
All this became clearer to me in a meeting yesterday with a major news publisher, in a 38th floor office overlooking the NY skyline. He said the publishing industry could never agree on anything like what we were talking about. I said "but they agreed on RSS." That turned the conversation in an interesting direction.
I always marvelled at how the publishing industry didn't fight the way the tech industry does. I learned yesterday that this is not true. The publishing execs probably didn't understand what they were doing by supporting RSS, but the Times was doing it, so it must be okay. (I guess, I'm an outsider to the publishing industry.)
The conversation continued. He asked why there was so much fighting over RSS. I said the tech industry doesn't like it when users prove they don't need them. That's probably why RSS has never been popular among the most powerful engineers at the big tech companies. It makes what they do seem less interesting. Of course that's why I like it, and that's why it made some important things possible.
And I think it's going to be important again, as the tech industry fights over who has the right to do what with the user's data. The problem they're going to have with RSS is that it lives outside their clouds, for the most part. It's been very interesting to watch TechCrunch covering the fight between Facebook and Google over user's contact data. I want to create data in places and ways that it isn't subject to that kind of manipulation. That is what RSS is and was all about.
RSS is a pretty good thing to have installed so widely. I think it's going to turn out to be a bit of a dormant seed, lying in wait, largely forgotten while we all learned about social networks. One day we're going to wake up and realize there's still a lot we can do with all those feeds that are still updating. And we're going to be glad that they aren't owned by Oracle, Microsoft, Google, Apple or Facebook.
Anyway to answer the question posed in the title of this piece, if you want to say I invented RSS, if it's a shorthand for all this michegas, go ahead. But it would be more accurate to say I made it a standard. That I think is the true story, the true accomplishment.