Colin's Journal

Colin's Journal: A place for thoughts about politics, software, and daily life.

April 8th, 2003

Thoughts on a publish-subscribe service for RSS

A posting by Dan on the way we use RSS to notify users about updates to weblogs inspired me to consider an alternative. It’s not immediately clear that the polling of a web-server once an hour using conditional GET of an RSS feed is really a problem. As I say in the starting paragraph of my new article on the subject:

I’ve seen it estimated that a conditional HTTP GET on an RSS file takes about 200 bytes of bandwidth. That’s not very much at all, even with a thousand clients polling once per hour the total bandwidth cost in a month will be about 137MB. It’s still worth looking at alternatives though to see whether there is a more efficient way of being notified when a weblog is updated.

Is it worth the development effort required to reduce this kind of load? If we did, would it really work? I’m not convinced yet, but I have taken a stab at describing a web service that could by implemented as an alternative. I did consider existing alternatives like headline distribution in Jabber, but they still rely on polling at the end of the day.

Here’s my proposal, if you are interested in this sort of thing I would appreciate the feedback.

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