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Windows Live Relying On Outdated Netscape File

Okay, this one’s a bit technical, so bear with me: A DTD, or Document Type Definition, is a file used to express or define a type of XML file. RSS 0.91, an outdated but still widely supported and sometimes used type of RSS feed, uses a DTD that is supposed to be located at my.netscape.com/publish/formats/rss-0.91.dtd. As a result, many RSS readers rely on an external file hosted by an independant company, rather than hosting the file (which has not been changed in the better part of a decade) on their own servers.

Okay, got it? Software and web services are relying on a file hosted on netscape.com, rather than just doing the job themselves. Netscape.com is the homepage of what was a small company designing an innovative internet browser, then a portal, then a major site part of a divising of AOL, then a portal as part of AOL, a division of Time Warner, and now a social news website, that may or may not be related to AOL, which may or may not be dying a slow death as part of Time Warner.

Naturally, this is a god-awful stupid, short-sighted idea. Relying on a file hosted by anyone else as part of a spec is a stupid decision, one almost designed to fail, simply due to the passage of time. A lot of RSS readers, including Microsoft’s own Windows Live RSS gadget, saw their ability to read RSS 0.91 files fail completely, because they followed the spec and relied on the Netscape file, which Netscape removed as part of a redesign 12 days ago.

Netscape brought back the file, temporarily, but is planning on deleting it again on July 1, 2007, permanently breaking any feed reader’s ability to read RSS 0.91, providing the creator/maintainer of the feed reader is a lazy moron. Presumably, Windows Live has been paying attention (and if they haven’t, seriously?) and they won’t be affected by the changeover, but it illustrates some of the problems with backwards compatibility, particularly when it relies on external factors.

Perhaps this can be used to convince website to stop supporting the older, completely replaced 0.91 version of RSS. Perhaps this will remind developers to always keep it local, that relying on external files is asking for a problem. I don’t blame Netscape, which is so far divorced from the team that originally hosted the file that they bear no responsibility, and just wanted to save the 32 gigabytes per day the file used. No one, not Microsoft or Google or the U.S. government, should be hosting files that other websites rely on, not on this scale.

Oh, and don’t get me on why people shouldn’t even be using RSS 0.91…
(via Randy)

January 19th, 2007 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | General, Blogs, Windows, Live | 2 comments
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2 Comments »

  1. Perhaps they felt the need to imlpement 0.91, but were afraid of copyright infringement? So they couldn’t host the file themselves, or build it into their products?

    As for nasty feeds, I know a few >_

    Comment by Tim | 1/19/2007

  2. That’s… interesting. My emoticon cut off my comment.

    I guess I shouldn’t use emoticons anymore that resemble HTML tags. Heh.

    Comment by Tim | 1/19/2007

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