Last week at the
O'Reilly Emerging Technology Conference,
Jeff Bezos announced OpenSearch, an API that enables third parties to
inject their own live search results into Amazon's A9.com. I didn't
attend ETech this year, but that cloud had a silver lining: I was able
to dive right in and do an OpenSearch implementation.
As fate would have it, I'd just finished a quick hack to
reorganize the output of InfoWorld's Ultraseek search engine. I named
my little project InfoWorld power search
because it delivers a dense page of titles, categorized by story type.
When I heard about OpenSearch, I wondered how hard it would be to
integrate my new view of InfoWorld search as a “column” in A9. As I
soon learned, it's almost trivial.
OpenSearch is interesting in lots of ways, but here
I want to focus on its use of RSS. A9 doesn't subscribe to my
search-results feed in the way Bloglines or FeedDemon or NetNewsWire
would. It doesn't poll for changes. Instead it sends a request to my
site when an A9 user with an active InfoWorld column performs a search.
The response packet I send back just happens to be formatted as RSS
2.0, but from A9's perspective, it could be any XML format.
Why RSS 2.0, then? Because it creates network effects that go
way beyond the point-to-point relationships between A9 and its search
partners. The work I did to export RSS 2.0 search results served double
duty. It accomplished the integration with A9, but it also dramatically
expanded InfoWorld's RSS surface area. Now, for the first time, you can
subscribe to any InfoWorld search in a feed reader. Want to be notified
when the next review of a VoIP product shows up at InfoWorld.com? Run
the query, and subscribe to its results.
Most people nowadays use RSS for person-to-person
communication. You know the pattern: When a publisher posts a blog
item, subscribers are alerted. A growing number of folks are also using
RSS for process-to-person communication. Subscribing to searches is the
best example of this pattern.
A9's use of RSS for process-to-process communication
represents a third pattern. We'll be seeing a lot more of it. Not
because RSS enables process integration in special ways — it doesn't
— but rather because RSS helps us blur the boundaries between human
network and process networks.
To be honest, I wasn't even planning to enable RSS
subscription to InfoWorld search. It just came for free. When that
happens, it's a sign that things are deeply right. [Full story at InfoWorld.com]