What is the future of open blog infrastructure?

The buzz surrounding VeriSign's acquisition of Dave Winer's weblogs.com prompted me to review my understanding of the blogosphere's notification infrastructure -- a topic I hadn't thought much about for a while. For example, I use Radio UserLand to publish this blog. I know that it pings weblogs.com when I update, and that my updates are reflected in its changes.xml file. But what happens to this data then? I assumed that, one way or another, it found its way to all of the aggregation and search services that I'd hope would know about my updates.

The advent of FeedMesh -- a peering arrangement among services that receive blog pings -- made that assumption seem even likelier. So while it's possible for me to alert multiple services when I update -- using the likes of ping-o-matic or the masterPing tool for Radio UserLand -- I hadn't bothered to do so.

This morning, though, it struck me that my assumptions have been very murky indeed. I installed masterPing and looked at the options. It's offering to ping, among others, blo.gs, PubSub, and Technorati. Should I? If I don't, will they find out anyway? How would I know?

I'm a reasonably tech-savvy person, and I've got a fair amount of experience with blog technologies. If I can't answer these questions off the top of my head, imagine how uninformed and/or confused non-geek bloggers must be.

At issue is whether the blogosphere's notification system is an open federation, or a bunch of walled gardens. According to Cameron Marlow:

Technorati, Bloglines, and Feedster are all closed systems, and pings sent to them are available only to their service. As the weblog economy grows, there will only be more and more competition for each ping, and I assume these companies will protect their data, and for good reason. [overstated: Weblog ping services]
Cameron nonetheless hopes we'll see an open system of notification, and PubSub's Bob Wyman argues that FeedMesh is the way to achieve it:
Hopefully, FeedMesh will soon be seen as a regular and established component of a strengthened and more open blogging infrastructure. FeedMesh will allow a wide variety of new services to rapidly get into the stream of updates. New and established services will be able to focus more on building better and more distinctive services rather than the dirty and duplicative work of tracking down updates. Given the ethics of openness in the blogging and syndication movement, it seems right that we should all compete not based on which or how many updates we know about but rather on the quality of the services we provide. As I May Think: FeedMesh works!]

However Jason Calcanis, whose weblogsinc.com was (confusingly) also just acquired, offered a less charitable interpretation:

Technorati and Feedster folks are way too smart to give their data (i.e. their entire business) into the cloud. You see, Pubsub was the third place player so they suggested -- under the guise of the good of the community -- that everyone share the blog updates and compete on the services they wrap around them. [FeedMesh 101 (or why it will probably fail to be the one service that unites them all)]

More inside baseball came to light when BusinessWeek.com pointed to a Wall Street Journal story quoting Technorati's Dave Sifry as saying that "his company gets an edge from exclusive deals in which some blog-hosting companies ping Technorati before anyone else." Bob Wyman responded: "If these claims are true, then the WSJ has revealed behavior most foul."

Finally, blogging today about the weblogs.com/VeriSign deal, Dave Winer suggests that VeriSign can help bring order to the chaos:

And believe me, the Technorati's and PubSub's, even Feedster and Bloglines, weren't helping out very much. I believe they'll respect VeriSign much more than they respected me. [Scripting News: What a day!]

I frankly dunno just what to think about all this. But now that an 800-pound gorilla has arrived on the scene, I'd like to know whether its vision extends beyond weblogs.com to an open federation of notification services.

Former URL: http://weblog.infoworld.com/udell/2005/10/07.html#a1317