Activity Streams Aim to Be DNA of the Future Web
March 14th, 2010

Louis Gray reviews on the presentation of Chris Messina at the South by Southwest Interactive event SXSW.

Open source advocate Chris talked on how he and others in the community, both at Google and outside of it, are working to bring more meaning to our social networks, activity, and feeds, through extending today’s data portability standards to include more information and more relevance. Messina walked through a history of the Web’s publishing, from static portals of a decade ago, to today’s RSS and Atom-powered sites, and suggested a future with even more information, based on streams.

By 2005, a new extension of RSS was promoted, called Atom, which was still the essential concept of syndicating data from one Web site to another, but also adding an author and an identifier for the atomic bit of information.

Now in 2010, little has changed. Most news feeds of today, be they on Facebook, on customized portals, or the headline and link model that dominates Twitter, are fairly simple, and they don’t indicate intent. As Messina said, “It’s not all that different from the last 10 years, and that gets kind of depressing”.

But what has changed is the increase of sharing rich media in these places, on platforms designed for “dead tree media”. He said we should be able to show what we did, who with and why we were doing it, and that needs to happen through new richer formats for the social Web.

Activity Streams, an extension to the Atom Feed format, is looking to accomplish this by extending Atom and RSS with new aspects, including a verb and an object type. The world of FriendFeed, which supported a unified feed of 58 different services, where people could have one single stream that represented their identity online helped guide much of ActivityStreams’ framework.

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