RSS and Vista - Where's the beef?

I’ve had some developers who have heard some of the buzz about RSS and Vista, ask me exactly what it means in terms of features. Sure Vista is going to support RSS, but how exactly, and what does it mean to us as developers? I’m not going to cover every aspect of upcoming RSS support, but instead I’ll focus on an overview from a developer’s perspective.

More to come

Some of the RSS functionality is available in Vista beta 1, and Internet Explorer 7 beta 1. However this is just a small preview, in the beta 2 releases much more will be visible. Some users have looked at what’s in beta 1 of these products and decided that the buzz was just a bunch of marketing schmoo – Don’t make a final evaluation yet until you can see more complete versions of these products. It’s also important to note that Office 12 is not available even as a beta yet, but contains a lot of RSS integration as well.


The goals of RSS integration are:

  1. Making RSS feeds easy to find and easy to subscribe to (Internet Explorer 7)

  2. Enabling easy integration by developers into their applications (Vista)

  3. Creating an open RSS extension to support lists.

Internet Explorer 7

Internet Explorer 7 supports RSS with three new features:

  1. Feed discovery

  2. Feed subscription

  3. Feed display

When a user is on a page that contains an RSS feed, an icon lights up on the toolbar (discovery). The user can use this button to subscribe or view the feed. IE however cannot watch feeds you have subscribed to, and this can be confusing to developers as most developers have expectations that IE has a RSS reader as well, and it does sort of. When a feed is discovered if you choose to view it, instead of seeing raw XML, IE displays a nicely formatted page. However for subscribed feeds IE does not watch them for updates. Instead, IE puts that feed into the Common Feed List. The Common Feed List is then used by RSS readers to maintain and discover your feeds. Microsoft will be providing the type of traditional RSS reader that many of us use now, but it will be part of Outlook (see Office 12 section later). More on IE7 and RSS


Vista provides the core support of the RSS engine. Some components might also be available on XP and installed by IE7 or Office. These components are referred to as the platform components. The platform components consist of three elements:

  1. Common RSS Feed List Maintains a list of feeds the user is subscribed to.

  2. Common RSS Data Store – Common data store that provides a single location where any application can access content that has been downloaded from a feed. Data includes text, pictures, audio, calendar events, documents, etc.

  3. RSS Platform Sync Engine – The sync engine manages feed data downloads. It is designed to download while minimizing impact on network bandwidth by using the network during idle periods.  

Office 12

Office 12 contains support for RSS in many areas in both publishing and exposing documents as RSS feeds, but also the integration of an RSS reader into Outlook. Feeds that are subscribed too in IE7, can be read in Outlook.


RSS feeds are useful for exposing new articles, documents, etc. However for exposing lists such as favorite books, calendars, phone lists etc they are not well suited. Because of this along with the RSS support Microsoft has created an open set of extensions to RSS to support lists. By creating an open standard, RSS feeds can now be used to share calendars, publish best selling book lists, etc.

What about ATOM?

Vista, IE, and Office will contain support for not only RSS, but ATOM 0.3, and ATOM 1.0 when released.

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