RSS has become a core component of the web and was created by more than a dozen people, including myself. Because sharing links to things on the web has become so commonplace, people forget that before the process was formalized through RSS output and concepts such as permalinks, it was very difficult to do so.

RSS competed with standards such as ICE which were complex, bureaucratic and developed by large groups of people who were used to traditional computer standards. They complained that RSS was a toy – they were right, and that’s why its successful and ICE isn’t. Web standards tend to be simple and are adopted de facto, they are about design elegance rather than engineering proficiency, RSS is a good example of that.



I first proposed one line bios at the South By South West interactive conference, The convention was first used by Six Apart for their blogging software, Typepad. After Twitter and Facebook adopted it, it is now used by nearly a billion people.

Ian Davis later worked on a full spec with me. Bio spec

and Anil Dash wrote a nice history of them. One Line Bios

One line bios were designed to replicate the simplicity of RSS and apply it to people – to get individuals to write a single sentence headline about themselves, beneath their name so that by knowing a tiny bit about them you could disambiguate between John Doe the farmer from Nebraska and John Doe the architect from Brooklyn and link through to a fuller profile. The idea is trivial, and like many web conventions, the trick is finding the right trivial thing that people will use and others will find useful.

RSS Ping


RSS Ping was an attempt to improve the architecture of the web to make realtime search more possible. It wrote it with Matt Mullenweg, who created WordPress, the world’s most widely used publishing software.

Currently, weblog ‘pings’ tell aggregators and search engines that a site has been updated, and they then go and crawl it or pull the RSS feed. RSS Ping was designed to augment this so that the ping would say exactly what had been updated, making the second step unnecessary in many cases. It was a push mechanism for RSS, if you like.


The RSS Ping spec is here

Web Inspired Design Language for Architecture


This isn’t so much an attempt as a standard, but a methodology. Having designed both software and buildings, I wanted to try and apply web design methodology (which is all about flow) to a real house plan. A more detailed description of it is here.


EDML was an attempt to do pretty much what XML ended up doing – create an HTML like tagging system to define the meaning of things rather than just their presentation on a page. We took the meta standard for Electronic Document Exchange, EDIFACT, (which allows you to standardize forms such as purchase orders etc. and created web forms which built web forms from standardized components which had tags which indicated their meaning (a phone number tag for a phone number, etc.).

I’m including a link to EDML here, largely as a curiosity, since 15 years later, nobody seems to have done this with XML.