Giovanni Guardalben, HiT Syndicaat

Developing Enterprise Syndication Management Systems

Name:
Location: Affi, Italy

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Open Search & Syndication

Open Search is web tool that support searches on multiple heterogeneous web data sources using a minimalist web query syntax and a minimalist XML/RSS schema for returning query result sets. Query syntax is based on query templates provided by web data sources when they register their URLs to the Open Search directory of compliant web data sources.

Clearly, the primary objective of this specification is the one of radically changing the way web searches are currently supported by search engines. Rather than relying on ever growing search repositories, web search platforms should perform concurrent searches on user-selected specialized searchable repositories. This way, multiple specialized search engines can be searched at the same time and their results coalesced into a combined XML document.

In the Open Search approach, RSS 2.0 (i.e., the format used for returning search result sets) is just the result set XML schema specification. In fact in most cases, the internal data structure of the heterogeneous web data sources can be anything and typically, it will be neither RSS, nor XML (nor is the semantics of web data sources linked to syndication).

Even though in Open Search, RSS is only a convenient format for returning search results, there are no intrinsic reasons for not using the Open Search specification for searching syndication content.

Blogs can be very conveniently searched using Open Search query syntax. However, should "pure" (i.e., syndication documents not tied to a blog) syndication content be searchable with Open Search ?

If a syndication management system is used to complement a Web Content Management system, it should definitely support the Open Search specification. In this context, an important extension to Open Search should be support of authenticated access. This would enable searches based on named subscriptions. We also believe that more advanced search capabilities (such as the use of the RSS category element, or restrictions on all RSS elements or attributes) would improve the quality of results. It should also be possible to return data source specific extensions to RSS in the result sets.

In our implementation of an enterprise syndication management system (HiT Syndicaat), we decided to Open Search-enable queries from the first release. This turned out to be a fairly light task because our URL-based query syntax was already richer than the minimalist Open Search query specification.

I am hoping to hear from HiT Syndicaat users about how useful they found our Open Search support.

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