Ray Ozzie, Chief Technical Officer at Microsoft, sees Really Simple Syndication (RSS) as a building block for the future Web. When combined with new tools that make it easier to use, RSS could bring the ability to write powerful composite web applications to the level of a script programmer or even a non-technical computer user. Unix users are already familiar with the concept of composite applications; creating them at the command line by "piping" output between command-line applications (sending the output of one program to another). In the graphical user interface, the clipboard acts like a pipeline between apps. Using simple cut and paste commands, the user weaves components, like those in the Office suite, into a larger application. How can we move information as easily from one website to another? What kind of a tool could act as a clipboard for the web?
Ozzie has an idea: why isn't this so-called clipboard of the web simply the Windows Clipboard? Users are already familiar with it, and the idea could be expanded to the web. Ozzie's team has written a demo called the Live Clipboard. Using XML schemas to move data, users can copy-and-paste data from a website to another website, from a PC to another PC, or from a website to the PC, and watch everything fall into place. For example, an RSS feed originating from your friend's GPS-enabled smart phone could be directed to something like Google Earth on your desktop, so you can see your friend moving around the globe as the feed updates in the background.
The Live Clipboard demo looks simple and that's the point: there's power in simplicity. Due to the lack of easy-to-use interfaces and because acceptable standards have yet to emerge, RSS has yet to gain widespread adoption. Tools like Ozzie's Live Clipboard could help RSS spread to new audiences beyond blogging. Microsoft will add the Live Clipboard to its operating system but the feature will be most useful when everyone agrees to use it. Live Clipboard is released under Creative Commons and has been tested on major browsers. A common set of data formats have yet to be agreed on and Ozzie invites developers to participate in the creation of those formats.
Ray Ozzie is the creator of Lotus Notes. He was also involved in the development of VisiCalc and Lotus Symphony. He founded Groove Networks, a popular collaboration service, which was acquired by Microsoft in 2005. He now works as a chief technical officer at Microsoft. He has been honored as a distinguished alumnus of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, named World Economic Forum Technology Pioneer in 2001 and Person of the Year in 1995 by PC Magazine, and among others, inducted into the Computer Museum Industry Hall of Fame.
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Photo: Microsoft Corporation