Windows RSS Platform

Hello, Walter from the land of IE Program Managers here. You might have seen or read about the RSS functionality in the user interface of IE7 Beta 2 Preview. There is a bit more to it then just letting users subscribe and read feeds from the IE7 user interface. The RSS functionality in IE7 is "powered" by the Windows RSS Platform. The Windows RSS Platform API encapsulates 3 main components: Common Feed List, Feed Synchronization Engine, and Feed Store.

The RSS functionality in IE7 is built on top of these components. While we previously announced that the Windows RSS Platform would be available for Windows Vista, we are extremely pleased to announce that the Windows RSS Platform will also be available as part of Internet Explorer 7 for Windows XP SP2, Windows Server 2003 SP1 and Windows XP 64-bit.

The Windows RSS Platform is available to any application. The idea is that applications can utilize the Windows RSS Platform to become RSS enabled without having to re-implement basic RSS building blocks. This can significantly reduce the time and effort application developers have to invest in order to integrate RSS into their programs.

That’s all great, but what does that mean? And why is a Windows RSS Platform a good idea? Glad I asked 😉 Let me tell you about that.

Like many of you, I’ve been running several RSS applications (aggregators, pod casters, etc…) for some time and am subscribed to close to 100 feeds. Each time I start using another RSS application I play the "game" of OPML export and import. This quickly becomes a hassle, especially when I lose track of feeds because I subscribed to or deleted feeds in different applications and hence my feed lists are no longer in sync.

This is where the Common Feed List of the Windows RSS Platform can help. Multiple applications can read, add, or delete from the Common Feed List and hence are "sharing" the user’s list of subscribed feeds. IE7 is one such application. When you discover and subscribe to feeds in IE7, it adds them to the Common Feed List and the new subscription is available to other applications. Not only can the user benefit from multiple applications using the Common Feed List, but we expect that over time, online services will provide tools that synchronize the Common Feed List with their services. This will allow roaming of the user’s subscription list not only between applications, but also between computers.

But wait, there’s more!

I mentioned two other components above: Feed Synchronization Engine and Feed Store. Together with the Common Feed List, these components allow application developers to include support for RSS feeds without having to becomes an expert in RSS formats, synchronization schedules, enclosure downloads – or even XML(!).

Here’s what the Windows RSS Platform provides for developers:

  • Support for every major RSS and Atom format, as well as many popular extensions.
  • Background scheduled updates.
  • Support for server-friendly technologies like conditional GETs and RFC 3229 for feeds.
  • Bandwidth-friendly enclosure downloads using Background Intelligent Transfer Service (BITS).
  • API exposing a simple object model for feeds as well as direct access to the raw XML stream.

All of this functionality is available as shared technology as part of IE7 on Windows Vista and down-level. As a developer, including RSS support in your application can be amazingly easy.

I’m sure that many of you are interested in more details of the API, features, and implementation. Over the next few weeks we will post about those on the RSS team blog. Head on over and leave us your comments and questions.

 - Walter

Comments (48)

  1. mabster says:

    Last night I was reading the MSDN page about the Rss Platform API (FeedManager etc).

    It didn’t say anything about a managed API, however.

    Will we see a .NET assembly for talking to the Rss Platform any time soon?

  2. Sven Groot says:

    One problem I see with this is spyware/adware or other apps with a less than play-nice attitude poluting your feed list with all kind of garbage.

    What’s being done to prevent this?

  3. fogger says:


    How is that a problem specific to the RSS features? Spyware can do everything a normal application can do, including things much worse than spamming the RSS feed list.

    Cheers, Fogger

  4. Alijah Green says:

    feature request, passport sign in option to be able to take my feeds anywhere there is a ie7 browser.

  5. Alijah Green says:

    feature request, passport sign in option to be able to take my feeds anywhere there is a ie7 browser.

  6. Milo says:

    What about feeds that require login-credentials (like GMail)? Trusting IE to use those credentials appropriately is one thing. Trusting any app on my computer to do the same is another.

  7. abulliard says:

    So why Microsoft is not building a Windows Live RSS something, with syncronization to a smart client? BTW, there is no notification for unread posts in IE7?

  8. PatriotB says:

    Thanks for making the RSS platform available on XP/2003 as well. It doesn’t surprise me at all that you made that decision. Otherwise, you’d have to have two separate code paths for IE’s RSS features: one that was build on the RSS platform APIs (Vista) and one that would do it all itself (XP). No reason to have two codebases when one will do. Good move.

  9. Stephen Smith says:

    Have just got the IE7 beta – I’ve only ever used RSS in Firefox, and IE seems incredibly clumsy in comparison – not that Firefox is perfect.

    The whole interface feels very clumsy and ugly to me. I like the thumbnailed tabs view though

  10. Brandon Furtwangler says:

    I made a comment about ie7 not ‘getting’ RSS on the newsgroup yesterday, but now I see that more is going on than appears. Will the final version of ie7 take full advanage of the windows rss platform? will aggregation be built in? will unread post notifications show up?

    thanks for setting the record strait.

  11. Wraith Daquell says:

    I think it’s great! I’m definetly using this in my next app to syndicate update notifications.

    @ Mr.Dale-

    It seems if MS tries to copy, people call them copycats. It would also seem if they don’t copy, innovation becomes clumsiness? I think it all depends on what you’re used to; Firefox’s RSS handling didn’t sit well with me, but I can stomach IE7’s.

  12. Scott Villinski says:

    Feature request: I like the Quick Tabs – neat feature, and the RSS part isn’t bad as well. As a longtime Firefox RSS user, I’d like the option to quickly display the headlines (minus the summary of the post). In Firefox – I can easily scan my RSS feeds – but with IE7 – it takes much longer.

  13. kb says:

    feature request: Can we have the feed come up just like in Sage? I would love to have that as a feature on the final.

  14. mabster [reg: Managed Code],

    The RSS Platform API was designed with the .NET Framework Design Guidelines in mind. We aimed to apply them unless they didn’t make sense in a COM API. Our goal is also to make sure that developers can use TLBIMP.exe to create managed wrappers for the dual interfaces of the RSS Platform APIs. As you might have read in the SDK documentation, the RSS Platform API implements “Tri-Interfaces”, which means one set of interfaces targeted at C++ developers and dual interfaces targeted at script and managed developers. Please give tlbimp.exe a try and let us know what you think.

    Alijah [reg: Roaming feed list],

    I agree with you that being able to roam your feed list to other computers via a service is a great feature. The RSS Platform makes it possible for various services to write applications to sync the feed list with their service.

    Brandon Furtwangler [reg: Aggregation and unread notifications],

    The RSS features in IE7 are built on top of the RSS Platform. The term “aggregation” is used it various context, so I might misunderstand what you mean by “will aggregation be built in”. However, I believe you are referring to a view of unread items from several feeds which is sometimes called a news paper view. IE7 does not provide such a view. Other applications however can create such a view based on the RSS Platform.

    Regarding your question “will unread post notifications show up”, unread items do show up in IE7 in the form feed bolded in the feed list. Individual unread items are displayed with a blue bullet and blue title vs a grey bullet with grey title.


    I am glad that you like what we are working on. Thanks!

    -Walter [MSFT]

  15. Chris says:

    Will there be any visual cues with the RSS list that lets you know about new feeds, like in safari? Also the Favorites panel is annoying how it covers content; I do not find this efficient. Also why can’t I move any toolbars, I’m forced to use a drop down menu which requires too many clicks. Another thing as a designer the jaggies on the back and forward buttons are gross around the edge of the circles. The mix of colors is horrendous and bubbly glass is overdone and out of place.

  16. Peter says:

    In FireFox, I can add an RSS feed to the Links area, so that I can just click the feed icon and all the latest headlines dropdown right off the Links toolbar. IE7 should do this too.

    I actually tested this in IE7B2, and when I hover the feed over the Links toolbar, the insertion point displays, but dropping the feed icon does nothing.

  17. Andrew H says:

    Stephen Smith,

    Can you elaborate as to why you think the IE RSS interface is ‘clumsy’? Your point as it stands is not constructive.


  18. Walter, having every managed app that wants to use the Feed API create an interop assembly is wasteful. Why not at least release a primary interop assembly (PIA) as Office did even with Office XP so that official interop assemblies exist that everyone can use. The types are registered along with the usual COM registration so that when IDEs like Visual Studio are asked to create interop assemblies they use the PIAs instead. If installed into the GAC the ref count is increased rather than a new assembly being installed and taking up space.

  19. Lordmike says:

    Will this platform also work on a network?

    Let’s say I want my colleagues to alway have specific feeds on their list, can I somehow manage this on a Windows Server 2003?

    That is so they just get specific work related feeds from the server and at the same time have their own feeds locally on their own accounts.

    Would be a nice feature to have.

  20. Ian says:

    I like the new beta and am a avid RSS/blog reader currently using newsgator is there anyway that I can import my current feeds using OPML just to get me started instead of having to visit the 100+ subscribed sites again? Thank you

  21. Mikhail Orlov says:

    And what about .net API?

  22. Ben Cooke says:

    You just know that every application you install from IE7’s release onwards will add a newsfeed to your global feed repository. The polite ones will have a checkbox in the installer alongside "[X] Put Icons Everywhere!", while the impolite ones (which will be most of them) will just do it without asking, meaning that after a few installs the feed list will be just as polluted as the Start Menu Programs folder on your average Windows system.

  23. OMG says:

    @Sven, Ben…

    Yup, bang on! Every software distrubuter known to mankind will be adding "adware" to my RSS Feeds with this feature. The polite ones, will ask, but most, will not. Why won’t they?… well, suprisingly enough, these line don’t get many clicks.

    [_] Update me regularly with offers to buy unrelated software by mfgr X.

    [_] Share my email address with other companies

    [_] Subscribe me to feeds, that update once every 4 months, because pinging them every hour, of every day, would be a great waste of bandwidth.

    Please tell me that there is an "OFF" switch for this feature, AND, that there are GUI security options for end-users.

    e.g. There better be:

    [x] Do not allow feeds to be added from domain [_(insert porn domain(s) here)_].

    [x] Do not allow application [_XYZ_] to add feeds to my list. (e.g. some media players, that are REALy anoying might want to sign me up for "messages" that I couldn’t care less about)

    [x] Ask for confirmation when an application attempts to add a feed to my list (*) REQUIRED!

    (and defaults to NO)

    You also mention, that there is an API for this too. Please tell me that the "new" windows scripting, does NOT have access to this. Ditto for JScript, ditto for VBScript. App level VB, VBA, .Net, C#, fine.

    That said, I do look forward to the "feature" of being able to filter out duplicate items.

    E.g. on the extremely popular tech news site Digg, tracking multiple users, will often generate multiple duplicate entries. Being able to limit this, would be awesome.

  24. Dean Hachamovitch [MSFT] says:

    Ian — re OPML import and export: + button between Favorites center and QuickTabs, Import and Export, click next — feeds are at the bottom

  25. I’m in the ‘wait and see’ mindset on this issue but I could see a lot of programs using it in bad ways.

  26. Sidebar Geek says:

    The Windows RSS Team made a post on the IE Blog and their own RSS Team Blog about the Windows RSS Platform….

  27. mykkal says:

    Is there a way for me to add a RSS feed link to the beta version? I manage an America Model?Actress that blogs as a part of a reality show. I’d love to see how I can automatically get those feeds in IE 7.

  28. Rob says:

    I’m liking the ability to scrap my other RSS aggregators and use IE. But am I going to be able to mark articles as ‘Read’, like other feed readers? I don’t find a way to do that in beta2.

  29. dlb says:

    I’m glad to see that the API is simple and well defined.

    Going forward, is there a preferred mechanism for recognizing two-way dependencies between distinct feeds a/o feed items? For instance if a Blog A, item 1, references Blog B, item 2, and both A & B wish to represent this reference (A:1 -> B:2 ) within their respective feeds – either by incorporating the resource reference internally or by reference to a third meta-feed.

  30. Lordmike says:

    I guess that the Windows RSS Platform won’t work the way I asked, which is a shame.

  31. Philip Coupar says:

    I assume Oulook 12 will also make use of the windows RSS platform?

    Another feature request. I would like to be able to view all of my unread items across all feeds.

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