Dave Winer

Dave Winer (born May 2, 1955 in Brooklyn, New York City, USA) is an American software developer and entrepreneur in Berkeley, California. A pioneer in the areas of RSS as "Really Simple Syndication", XML-RPC, OPML, outliners, and the MetaWeblog API, he is also the author of Scripting News, one of the oldest weblogs, established in 1997. He is generally credited with the exposition of RSS as "Really Simple Syndication", now a world-wide phenomenon, and the first to implement the feed "enclosure" feature, one of several necessary ingredients for podcasting at the time it first emerged. He's also the founder of the software companies Living Videotext and Userland Software, and a former contributing editor for the Web site HotWired and former research fellow at Harvard Law School.


Winer was born in Brooklyn, New York City, and graduated from the Bronx High School of Science in 1972. Winer received a BA in Mathematics from Tulane University in New Orleans in 1976. In 1978 he received an MS in Computer Science from the University of Wisconsin.


In 1979 Dave Winer became an employee of Personal Software. In 1981 he left to found Living Videotext, which created early outliner programs ThinkTank, Ready and MORE 1.1 for Apple II, IBM PC and Macintosh computers. In 1988 he founded Userland Software and served as CEO until stepping down shortly after a health crisis in 2002. He was a contributing editor for the site HotWired from 1995-1996. In 2002 he was named one of the "Top Ten Technology Innovators" by InfoWorld.

Years at UserLand

In 1987 Winer sold Living Videotext to Symantec and purchased a house in Woodside, California and founded UserLand Software.

In 1994 Winer began publishing his personal column DaveNet, and in April 1997 founded the weblog Scripting News, although the word "weblog" was not coined at that time. The focus on blogging influenced the development of Userland online publishing products, with Winer enthusiastically promoting and experimenting with new features on his blog and website. During this period, Winer also, along with Microsoft, developed the protocol XML-RPC, which led to the creation of SOAP, which he co-authored along with Don Box, Bob Atkinson, and Mohsen Al-Ghosein at Microsoft.

The origins of web syndication technology can be traced back to earlier resource-description formats like MCF, XML, and RDF. In 1997, Dave Winer designed and announced his own XML syndication format for use on his Scripting News weblog. (Similar work was also being done elsewhere--for more detail of work by others see the main article on History of web syndication technology.)

By December, 2000, competing dialects of RSS available included several varieties of Netscape's RSS, Dave Winer's RSS 0.92, and an RDF-based RSS 1.0.

Userland was the first to add an "enclosure" tag in its RSS, modifying its blog software and its aggregator so that bloggers could easily link to an audio file. (See History of podcasting for information about podcasting and RSS, as well as the work of many other people in early audioblogging and podcasting.)

Winer and Userland continued to develop the branch of the RSS fork originating from their RSS 0.92, releasing in 2002 a version called RSS 2.0..

Winer's evangelism for web syndication in general and RSS 2.0 in particular convinced many news media organizations to syndicate their news content in that format. For example, in early 2002, the New York Times entered an agreement with Userland to syndicate many of their articles in RSS 2.0 format.

In June 2002 Winer had coronary artery bypass surgery to prevent a heart attack. Afterwards, he quit smoking and left his job as CEO of UserLand, although he maintained ownership of the firm and control of, kept blogging, and kept promoting RSS.

Berkman Fellow at Harvard

Winer spent one year as a resident fellow at the Harvard Law School's Berkman Center for Internet & Society where he worked on using weblogs in education. While there, he launched the Harvard Weblogs community using UserLand software, and held the first BloggerCon conferences. Winer's fellowship ended in June 2004.

Projects and activities


October 2000 - Using special "sound" and "video" tags in RSS Feeds to link to specific file types was proposed in 2000 in a draft by Tristan Louis. The related, and more general tag for "enclosures" was implemented by Dave Winer, a software developer and an author of the RSS 2.0 format, one of two formats called RSS based on the RSS 0.91 format written at Netscape. Winer had discussed the concept, also in October 2000, with Adam Curry a user of his software, and had received other customer requests for audioblogging features. Winer included the new functionality in RSS 0.92, by defining a new element called "enclosure, which would simply pass the address of a media file to the RSS aggregator.

January 11, 2001 - Winer demonstrated the RSS enclosure feature by enclosing a Grateful Dead song in his Scripting News weblog..

For its first two years, the enclosure element had relatively few users and many developers simply avoided using it. Winer's company incorporated the new feature in its weblogging product, Radio Userland, the program favored by Curry, audioblogger Harold Gilchrist and others. Since Radio Userland had a built-in aggregator, it provided both the "send" and "receive" components of what was then called audioblogging. All that was needed for "podcasting" was a way to automatically move audio files from Radio Userland's download folder to an audio player (either software or hardware) -- along with enough compelling audio to make such automation worth the trouble.

Winer also has an occasional podcast, Morning Coffee Notes. His podcast has featured guests such as Doc Searls, Mike Kowalchik, Jason Calacanis, Steve Gillmor, Peter Rojas, Cecile Andrews, Adam Curry, Betsy Devine and others.


BloggerCon is a user-focused conference for the blogger community. BloggerCon I (October 2003) and II (April 2004), were organized by Dave Winer and friends at Harvard Law School's Berkman Center for the Internet and Society in Cambridge, Mass.

After leaving Userland, Winer continued to maintain the domain, which provided a free ping-server used by most blog applications, as well as free hosting to many early bloggers. In mid-June 2004, he temporarily shut down free blog-hosting services there, without any notice, citing server and personal problems. After originally promising to get the blogs back up and running within a two-week period, he was able to restore them much faster thanks to help from Rogers Cadenhead. According to Wired Magazine, , "What was decried as the death of a blog universe when Dave Winer shut down free blog host turned out to be little more than a four-day server outage surrounded by a heck of a flame war."

In October, 2005, VeriSign bought the ping-server from Winer, promising that services currently free there would still be free. The podcasting-related web site was also included in the $2.3 million deal .

A later collaboration between Winer and Cadenhead, though, ended less happily. Winer had paid Cadenhead $5,000 to code improvements for another of Winer's projects, "Share Your OPML." (The site helped bloggers to make public and syndicate their blogrolls using OPML, an outlining tool developed at Radio Userland during Winer's years there.) Disagreement between the two escalated into a (blogged) confrontation which ended in 2006 with Cadenhead's keeping the $5,000 but abandoning all claim to the disputed code.

Relationship to the public

Tim Bray, a co-inventor of XML, wrote on his blog "Dave Winer has done a tremendous amount of work on RSS and invented important parts of it and deserves a huge amount of credit for getting us as far as we have. However, just looking around, I observe that there are many people and organizations who seem unable to maintain a good working relationship with Dave. Tim O'Reilly, who has had a rocky relationship with Dave for many years with regards to the technology conferences Tim organizes, says that Dave "can be a great contributor, but he can also decide, for no apparent reason, that someone is somehow on 'the other side,' at which point he becomes disruptive and abusive."

Others speak of Winer with admiration and affection. "Dave is one of my favorite sources of information and opinion on the Web. His opinions are passionately held, well-informed, intelligent, argumentative, and quite often wrong," quipped Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy author Douglas Adams. Cluetrain Manifesto co-author Doc Searls, a long-time friend of Dave Winer, expressed his sense of indebtedness in some detail: "When they scroll the credits of my life, Dave's is going to be one of the first names on the list. And when they scroll the credits for blogging, outlining, writing, scripting, journalism, XML, RSS, SOAP, podcasting and a pile of other technologies, standards and practices we will all eventually take for granted, the same will be true for those as well."

After a public confrontation with entrepreneur Jason Calacanis at the Gnomedex conference in August 2007, Winer resigned from the panel of experts for the TechCrunch20 conference organized by Calacanis. Winer interrupted Calacanis' speech during the event, deriding it as "conference spam" and igniting a war of words on their blogs. "I'm not interested in having someone berate me like this," Calacanis wrote on his blog.

See also


External links

News coverage and interviews

Companies and technologies of relevant interest

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