RSS was first invented by Netscape. They wanted to use an XML format
to distribute news, stories and information. Netscape refined the
version of rss and then dropped it. Userland Software to control
of the specficiation and continued to develop it releasing a newer
version. A non-commercial group picked up RSS at the same time and
based on their interpretation of the Netscape's original concept
of RSS they too released a new version. UserLand was not happy with
the non-commercial version and continued development of their own
version of RSS (Really Simple Syndication), eventually UserLand
released RSS v2.
Another View of the History of RSS
What is the history of RSS?
The history of RSS can be traced back to 1997, and the creation
of Resource Description Framework. Resource Description Framework
is also known as RDF. RDF was created by a man named, Ramanathan
V. Guha. RDF is similar to RSS.
The mark up language RDF, was used to store metadata.
Metadata is basically information about information, for example
if there is an article or a news report, the metadata would be the
author, the language, the copyright and all of the information related
to the article or news report. In 1999 Netscape created a standard
named RSS version 0.90. This was the beginning of RSS as we know
it today. Dan Libby, an employee of Netscape improved version 0.90
and released RSS version 0.91. Dave Winer, an employee at Userland
also created a new version of RSS. He too named it, RSS version
0.91, creating confusion, because the two versions of RSS were named
the same but the specifications were slightly different. Unfortunately
this was the beginning of a trend.
Netscape's RSS team abandoned RSS development, because
it was dubbed too complicated for what they were trying to accomplish.
Meanwhile Rael Dornfest at O'Reily released RSS version 1.0. The
new specification by O'Reily was based on the RDF standard rather
than the previous versions of RSS. RSS 1.0 was incompatible with
previous RSS versions. The specification caused significant marketplace
confusion because though RSS 1.0 had the same purpose as the 0.90
series, the specifications were very different. In an attempt to
minimize further confusion Userland named their next release RSS
version 2.0. RSS 2.0 is very similar to the 0.9 series and is generally
considered compatible, while RSS Version 1.0 remains very different.
Harvard Law accepted responsibility for the RSS 2.0
specification because Dave Winer of Userland, found that competitors
were leary of using the standard he had a hand in creating. In order
for the specification to be endorsed by all it was donated to a
non-commercial third party, Harvard Law school. Harvard Law is now
responsible for the future development of the RSS 2.0 specification.
What is XML? XML or eXtensible Markup Language is a mark up language.
There are a lot of folk legends about the evolution of RSS.
Here's the scoop, the sequence of events in the life of RSS,
as told by the designer of most of the formats.
format, designed by DW at UserLand. 12/27/97.
0.90, designed by Netscape, for
use with my.netscape.com, which also supported scriptingNews
format. The only thing about it that was RDF was the header,
otherwise it was plain garden-variety XML. 3/15/99.
2.0b1, designed by DW at UserLand, enhanced to include
all the features in RSS 0.90. Privately DW urged Netscape
to adopt the features in this format that weren't present
in RSS 0.90. 6/15/99.
0.91, designed by Netscape, spec written by Dan Libby,
includes most features from scriptingNews
2.0b1. "We're trying to move towards a more standard
format, and to this end we have included several tags from
the popular <scriptingNews> format." The RDF header is
adopts RSS 0.91, deprecates scriptingNews formats. 7/28/99.
- The RSS team at Netscape evaporates.
RSS 0.91 specification. 6/4/00.
1.0 published as a proposal, worked on in private by
a group led by Rael Dornfest at O'Reilly. Based on RDF and
uses namespaces. Most elements of previous formats moved
into modules. Like 0.90 it has an RDF header, but otherwise
is a brand-new format, not related to any previous format.
0.92, which is 0.91 with optional elements, designed
by DW at UserLand. 12/25/00.
0.93 discussed but never deployed. 4/20/01.
API merges RSS 0.92 with XML-RPC to provide a powerful
blogging API. 3/14/02.
- RSS 2.0, which is 0.92 with optional elements, designed
by DW, after leaving UserLand. MetaWeblog API updated for
RSS 2.0. While in development, this format was called 0.94.
2.0 spec released through Harvard under a Creative Commons
On July 15, 2003, UserLand Software transferred ownership of its
RSS 2.0 specification to the Berkman Center for Internet & Society
at Harvard Law School.
serLand is a leading developer of tools that produce and consume
RSS, and originator of the RSS 2.0 specification. The specification,
which was previously copyrighted, is now licensed under terms that
allow it to be customized, excerpted and republished, using the
Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike license.
The UserLand disclaimer and copyright is archived on the Harvard
website; however it now no longer applies to the RSS 2.0 specification.
Since UserLand specifically disclaimed ownership of the format that
the specification describes, no transfer took place on the format
An independent advisory board has been formed to broaden the public
understanding of the uses and benefits of RSS, and to guide developers
who create RSS applications. The initial members of the board are
Dave Winer, Berkman fellow and author of the RSS 2.0 spec; Jon Udell,
lead analyst for InfoWorld and columnist for the O'Reilly Network;
and Brent Simmons of Ranchero Software, author of NetNewsWire, a
leading RSS-based application.
Other versions of the history of RSS
Web RSS History
- History of the RSS Fork for a political history, and RSS Links
for the evolution of some of the specific technical features.