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. :-)
The current crop of tech writers in Silicon Valley are making the mistake tech writers always make. They don't understand how the industry loops, so they misread the signs. It's happening as they try to understand the connection between RSS and Twitter.
There is a very strong connection between the two. Twitter is a wonderful solution to many of the problems we had with RSS, most importantly, how to go from the impulse to subscribe to having actually subscribed.
In Twitter it's one click. In RSS, it's an unpredictable number of complex clicks. That in a nutshell is why Twitter blossomed. I don't think the 140-character limit is as important as they do, but time will tell.
It's not as if we didn't know that this was a problem with RSS, we did. In 2002, we even solved it, in Radio 8 with the coffee mug icon. But the solution wasn't general enough to work for all apps, and there was no will to cooperate among competitors, so the market developed chaotically, which is why Twitter filled the gap so nicely.
Can the problem still be solved, and more importantly, is there a reason to solve it?
Yes to both -- it can be solved, and there is an inexorable reason to solve it. In other words, if technology goes forward, and it seems it generally does (we do take backward steps, sometimes big ones, but over time the direction is forward) Twitter will be unbundled. The impetus to do it could come at any time. If they have to shut down some feed related to WikiLeaks, the immediate reaction among a lot of politically-oriented Twitter users will be to seek something open to replace it. And eventually there will be features people want enough to put up with the transition to an open version of what Twitter does. Features that Twitter can't or won't provide because it will be too deeply dug into its business model at the time.
This never doesn't happen. And it also never doesn't happen that the tech leader, approaching the peak of his or her power, fails to see it coming. It's almost tragic how blinded they are by their own success. Even Bill Gates, who swore he would never relax in his hard-coreness, let his guard down for a few critical years in the 90s, and the company went down the wrong path. IBM did it, Apple did, they all do it. Twitter is not an exception.
What rises to replace it will either be an open system built around RSS, or something indistinguishable from RSS. I would stake my reputation as a technologist on this one. I've been through so many of these loops, I never hedge my bets, and the bet has never been wrong. It always takes longer than you think it should, but eventually the open formats and protocols replace the systems built on corporate training wheels.
In September of last year I wrote a series of pieces about rebooting RSS. I think it's inevitable, given the popularity of Twitter, and the new use of the net to distribute leaks about governments, that the service offered by Twitter will be unbundled. And RSS, or something exactly like it, will be at the center of that unbundling. That was the premise of the series I wrote last year.
All I'm doing here is linking back to those pieces, in order, because they've come up in various offline conversations I'm involved in. Having the list in one place saves me the trouble of sending it via email several times.
9/13/10: How to Reboot RSS.
9/16/10: The Architecture of RSS.
9/18/10: Rebooting RSS, pulling it together.
9/20/10: Rebooting RSS, short names for feeds.
9/22/10: Rebooting RSS, interlude.
9/24/10: Why use RSS?
9/27/10: How to use open formats.
Related, but not exactly on-topic for this thread, 7 free ideas for an academic Hackathon, and 4 more free ideas. They're related because almost all of these ideas create components for the open version of Twitter.