Bloglines Proposed Feed Access Standard – Part II

We have been paying close attention to the public discussions around our efforts to create a standard that helps keep designated RSS feedsout of various search and aggregator indexes. The conversations are great and important for us all to understand the issues.

Pew’s recent report on bloggers found that “52% of bloggers say they blog mostly for themselves, not for an audience” and that “despite the public nature of creating a blog, most bloggers view it as a personal pursuit.”Maybe their content isn’t completely private, but some may not intend it for the masses. The standard we propose endeavors to enable bloggers and publishers to distinguish between making their content available for limited public consumption by friends, families, colleages or communities versus wanting it to be easily found by the public at large.

This issue bloggers and publishers are facing is similar to the issue robots.txt addressed. Sites that don’t want to be publicized or easily accessible to the masses use robots.txt to tell search engines not to crawl or index their pages without having to set up password authentication systems that would overly restrict their visitor community. By most accounts, the robots.txt standard has been largely successful in doing just that.

Our proposal for a Feed Access Control Standard is about creating a robots.txt-like standard for feeds. Bloggers and publishers who don’t want their feeds to be publicized will be able to tell search engines, aggregators and other feed crawlers to exclude their feed from listings, directories and search engine indexes.

We recognize that this proposed standard explicitly does not address republication. But just as robots.txt has done, it will act as a sign post to a search engine or an aggregator that a particular feed’s content (the content in the feed itself, not just on the page that is linked to from the feed) should not be indexed. Like a stop sign, the value is in making everyone aware of the rules of the road. As with any rule of the road, it relies on the community to adhere to it to prevent “accidents.”

Since we announced the proposed standard, we have been contacted by some really smart people at leading companies that are providing services in this space (Feedburner,Google, SixApart and Yahoo, to name just a few). We are really excited about working with them and other technology leaders, search engines, publishers and aggregators to develop a consensus that best addresses this need.

We’ll keep everyone updated on this page, but for now keep those cards and letters coming. Each one makes this a better process and a better proposal for our community.

– Robyn DeuPree, Bloglines Sr. Product Manager


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