There’s a Steve Gillmor article over at InfoWorld that’s pretty interesting to me, but not because of the subject — protection of freedom on the Internet — but because of the mention of the redistribution deal that UserLand has with the New York Times.

For those who don’t know about it, UserLand makes a product that claims to have exclusive access to a series of syndication feeds from the Times, feeds which contain links to articles and which can be fed into the news aggregator that’s part of the UserLand product. One of the selling points of Radio Userland has been that, after subscribing to the feeds, your personal homepage would contain automatically-updated links to stories that interest you, and would make it easy for you to share those links with others.

There’s been a bit of word-of-mouth spread of the URLs to the XML files, for those who have kept their eyes open. Unfortunately, despite all the bluster about standards and whatnot that generally comes out of the UserLand camp, the XML files aren’t standard RSS, but rather, are a proprietary format that most news aggregators won’t read. Fortunately, though, Mark Pilgrim has written a great script that you can grab and install that converts the proprietary XML files to standard RSS; at that point, the sky’s the limit, all without having to buy the UserLand app.

Just another case of Internet users routing around outages


The exclusive part of the UserLand/NYT deal is this: The Times is not making its feed available directly to readers in any way other than Radio Userland. Since the route-around can be blocked by Dave simply by changing the password, it will be pretty easy for him to secure the feeds again when he returns from the hospital.

As for “standards,” why should UserLand be expected to use open standards for XML feeds that are only used internally? These aren’t public feeds — though I’m hoping at some point the NYT realizes that making its headlines available via RSS to all is a win-win.

• Posted by: Rogers Cadenhead on Jun 17, 2002, 4:10 PM

Sure, but route-arounds take many forms, and there are already rumors that there are a few Radio users who just suck in the NYT feeds and republish them as RSS files using Radio itself. It would be harder to prevent that sort of thing, I’d think.

And I also think that I must have been too subtle about my point regarding the proprietary standard, which was that it’s a way for UserLand to reinforce their exclusivity, something that various UserLanders would freak out about if it weren’t their company on the side of the relationship that benefits.

• Posted by: Jason Levine on Jun 17, 2002, 4:21 PM

Rogers said: As for “standards,” why should UserLand be expected to use open standards for XML feeds that are only used internally?

Why? Because this is exactly the thing that Dave Winer (get well soon Dave) is always bitching and moaning about when the shoe is on the other foot. He’s always for open standards, no lockin, always brags that the protocols and APIs in his products are totally open so everything can be replaced.

Brian Carnell thinks



• Posted by: Jim Roepcke on Jun 17, 2002, 4:30 PM

As I wrote at length a while back on Workbench, I figured that Dave Winer got the best deal he could with the New York Times (and he confirmed that later in e-mail). The Times has only been comfortable making its feeds available to other papers.

Though some aspects of the deal may not be 100 percent of what we would like, or what Dave has expected of others, I am glad he agreed to the deal. The most influential paper in the country is offering syndicated feeds directly to readers and webloggers. If the experiment is successful, more papers will get over their reluctance to offer RSS feeds, and that net gain is worth a little proprietary lock-in.

• Posted by: Rogers Cadenhead on Jun 18, 2002, 9:38 AM
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