Microsoft has filed for two patents covering technology used to organize and read syndicated Web feeds, such as those delivered via the widely used Really Simple Syndication, or RSS, family of formats.
If granted, one proposed patent would cover “finding and consuming Web subscriptions in a Web browser.” The invention, for example, could allow a user to “subscribe to a particular Web feed, be provided with a user interface that contains distinct indicia to identify new feeds, and…efficiently consume or read RSS feeds using both an RSS reader and a Web browser.”
A related application, titled “content syndication platform,” appears to describe a system that can break down feeds into a format that can be accessed and managed by many different types of applications and users.
If you are familiar with the history of RSS, you know this is going to cause a furor.
Word of Microsoft’s applications drew fire from Dave Winer, a self-described co-inventor of RSS. “Presumably they’re eventually going to charge us to use it,” he wrote in Thursday morning’s dispatch at his site, Scripting News. “This should be denounced by everyone who has contributed anything to the success of RSS.”
Other bloggers criticized the patent applications as unoriginal or overly sweeping. But Nick Bradbury, who created the HTML editor HomeSite and the RSS reader FeedDemon, said he wasn’t ready to jump on the “Microsoft is evil” bandwagon yet. By his estimation, Microsoft’s patent claims were questionable, but, for better or worse, they were perhaps a response to the state of the U.S. patent system, he wrote in a blog entry.
Speaking of which, you can keep track of the latest US patents and patent applications from Microsoft and other leading tech companies at LatestPatents.com. In particular, the two mentioned in the article were part of today’s Microsoft crop of 69 patent applications.
Back in September, I compared Microsoft’s Avalon (WPF) and Indigo (WCF) demo application Microsoft Max to one of those glitzy concept cars that automakers are always wheeling out, but which never appear in the product line. Apparently the comparison was more apt than I realized since Max has just wheeled off into the sunset. Dare Obasanjo points to a post at the Max team blog titled “Thank you: the Max project has concluded” which breaks the news:
Thanks to your participation, we were able to accomplish the goals of the Max project—to get customer feedback on new ways to approach software and services. If you’re interested in seeing where we go with these ideas, keep your eye on Windows Live.
Starting today, we will be disabling all downloads from our website. In the next week, we will be shutting down the Max services and our team forums. At that time, you will no longer be able to sign in to Max or share lists of photos with your friends. You will still be able to read news and browse the lists you’ve already shared and received.
I expect there will be some grumbling.
Microsoft’s Web video sharing competitor to YouTube and Google Video that was rumored a couple of weeks ago has been been formally unveiled at MSN Soapbox where you can sign up for an invitation to participate in the beta. This project (codenamed “Warhol”) had originally been expected to arrive as Windows Live Video, but apparently the “content” nature of even user created video was enough to push it under MSN Video as part of the MSN brand.
Besides basic video sharing, MSN Soapbox offers a variety of social networking trimmings so dear to the heart of Web 2.0 fans:
Like competing video-sharing services, Soapbox will allow users not only to upload videos to the Web in almost any digital video format, but also to tag and categorize them so other users can find them.
The service will let users both watch videos and browse for new ones simultaneously on the same screen, something that differentiates it from YouTube, Microsoft said.
Other features in Soapbox include the ability for users to set up RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feeds for videos in which they are interested, and to embed videos directly into their personal blogs. To achieve the latter, Microsoft eventually will set up one-click integration between Soapbox and Windows Live Spaces, letting users upload videos from Soapbox to their Windows Live Spaces pages by clicking on a button. Eventually, Soapbox will be integrated throughout many of Microsoft’s online services, which include Windows Live Messenger and Windows Live Mail.
The Soapbox service will work with IE 6 or later browsers running on Windows XP, and the Firefox 1.0.5 browser or later running on Windows XP or Macintosh OS X.
There aren’t any ads visible on the beta screenshots I have seen and naturally my thoughts turned to monetization schemes. The above article by Elizabeth Montalbano at InfoWorld says:
Like its other Web-based services, Microsoft aims for Soapbox, too, to generate revenue by luring online advertisers, the company said. Though it won’t be ad supported in its initial release, Microsoft hopes the service will feature advertising down the line.
On the other hand, Elinor Mills at CNET says:
Unlike YouTube, Soapbox will have no advertisements, but Bennett said Microsoft can monetize the video by showing it on the main MSN Video site or by creating a “viral video hub.”
Why does this sound like monetization was an afterthought? I’m beginning to wonder if Microsoft really gets this ad supported software thing.
When Microsoft first announced Max a year ago, it was a photo cataloging and sharing application that really showed off the Avalon (now Windows Presentation Foundation) graphical interface technologies coming in Vista and being retrofitted to Windows XP. A lot of water has flowed under the bridge since then and now a new version of Max is available, but for some reason a limited RSS feed reader has been added. I’m not sure exactly what Max is supposed to be other than good looking, like one of those auto show concept cars. Download it here if you would like to take a test drive, but note carefully the system requirements (including .NET 3.0 RC1) and that it’s all beta code.