Remote OPML subscription lists

I’m late to this party, but lots of cool ideas are being summoned by Dave Winer in response to his  “Forward motion with RSS” post.

There are two things I think RSS already has that aren’t being utilized (enough).

One is RSSCloud, a way to get notified immediately if a feed has changed. I worked with Dave on getting some of my code to work with that feature of the spec a few years back. Need to dust it off because I’m pretty confident its day will come. In some ways it has, but it’s more of a plumbing aspect of app creation. I want to see it used for distributed real-time blogs. Like a distributed Twitter. Still some work before we get there.

The second thing is actually not RSS, but OPML. But it has huge implications for RSS feed lists,  Reading Lists or Subscription Lists.

The idea (not mine) is that a feed reader can subscribe to an OPML list of feeds that is curated or generated somewhere else on the web, and the reader will dynamically adjust the subscriptions when the remote OPML file changes.

Coming from the news business, I’m pretty sure that news organizations don’t realize how valuable this feature would be for them and their users. And even better, those news organizations, like mine, have the reach to jumpstart this without help from Silicon Valley.

But today I actually put my money where my mouth is and created something I hope might be useful. Using the Google Feed API, I created a feed search which offers a link to the OPML of the results so that feed readers and other apps that support this feature will have a nearly unlimited supply of OPML subscription lists to play with.

I test it out with Dave’s Fargo outliner and it worked! (After some work to get my OPML cleaned and serving correctly)

If you’d like to test it, here is how.

1. Go to and perform a search for some news you might be interested in

2. On the search results page click on the OPML link

3. Copy the URL

4. Inside Fargo (go there for instructions about that), go to File->Open by URL and paste the URL you just copied in

5. You should see the feeds from the search results show up. If the results ever change the page should be updated automatically

Well, that was fun. But that’s really only the tip of the iceberg. I’m sure you can think of lots of cooler things that can be done with remote OPML subscription lists.

Please let me know if you do.

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