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RSS Needs to Grow Up

John Federico

Seth Godin looks at the new frontiers for blogs and RSS. Scoble defines RSS as a republishing system. Podcasters and bloggers are getting pissed because their feeds are showing up in places they never intended. Private Basecamp project RSS feeds are showing up in publicly accessible channels like Newsgator Web Edition and Bloglines.

Is it just me, or does RSS need to grow up?

It's a wonderful, simple & flexible technology that enables the sharing and distribution of content and conversations. But now that the genie is out of the proverbial bottle, it needs some controls.


  • Authentication. Modern RSS readers need some form of HTTP AUTH support. This would keep "private" RSS feeds closed to only those people who are supposed to receive them. (Like Basecamp subscribers.)
  • Robots.txt or equivalent. There are now some RSS specific robots trawling RSS feeds, sometimes with the purpose of republishing content. These robots need to respect the standard robots.txt file or the feeds themselves need to contain some type of equivalent tag. Publicly accessible channels like Bloglines and Newsgator need to do the same.
  • Machine-readable copyright or Creative Commons tagging. In addition to the robots.txt file, machine-readable use and rights need to be included. (Something like the failed P3P for privacy policies.) Unlike robots.txt which simply offers "allow or disallow" as criteria, a rights-management file or header would let crawlers know what they can or cannot do with the content and act accordingly.

What else?

Update: People have been pointing out that Feedburner allows for basic password protection of RSS Feeds. Great, but how many RSS readers support authentication?