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Control Your Feeds with Windows Vista's New RSS Platform

By adding OS-level support for RSS in Vista and making that support available to .NET developers, Microsoft has provided an easy way to build completely new classes of applications with little additional effort.

eally Simple Syndication (RSS) is a set of XML schema that define how providers can publish information destined for consumers. In its most common form, RSS holds the text and pictures you find on someone's blog, but RSS can just as easily contain news headlines or multimedia files attached to a description. As the name implies, RSS is a simple set of standardized XML tags.

Unfortunately, RSS isn't all that "standardized." The term really covers a group of formats that have developed over time. The two most common formats are RSS 2.0 and Atom 0.3. But the good news for developers is that Microsoft's new RSS support in Windows Vista handles not only these (and earlier versions of the RSS spec), but looking forward, Microsoft has promised support for Atom 1.0 when it is released. The bottom line is that Vista developers don't have to worry about RSS formats—the Vista RSS API takes care of that for you transparently.

Windows Vista adds RSS support at the operating system level, allowing any application direct access to a common application programming interface (API) for reading and manipulating RSS feeds. Making RSS a first-class citizen of the operating system also gives applications direct access to other functionality, such as the Background Intelligent Transfer Service (BITS), for downloading.

The Windows RSS Platform API encapsulates three main components: Common Feed List, Feed Synchronization Engine, and Feed Store. Each provides functionality used by other programs, such as Internet Explorer 7 and Microsoft Outlook. While there are overlaps in some of the capabilities, the idea is to try to keep things common where it makes sense—such as your feed subscriptions.

Here's what the Windows RSS Platform provides for developers (from the IE team blog):

  • Support for every major RSS and Atom format, as well as many popular extensions.
  • Background scheduled updates.
  • Support for server-friendly technologies such as conditional GETs and RFC 3229 for feeds.
  • Bandwidth-friendly enclosure downloads using BITS.
  • API exposing a simple object model for feeds as well as direct access to the raw XML stream.
Information on the Windows RSS Platform is still marked preliminary on MSDN. Other good sources of information include the RSS team and IE team blogs.

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