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Network Working Group                                      M. Nottingham
Internet-Draft                                             June 30, 2005
Expires: January 1, 2006


              Feed History: Enabling Stateful Syndication
                draft-nottingham-atompub-feed-history-01

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Copyright Notice

   Copyright (C) The Internet Society (2005).

Abstract

   This document specifies mechanisms that allow feed publishers to give
   hints about the nature of the feed's statefulness, and a means of
   retrieving "missed" entries from a stateful feed.

1.  Introduction

   Syndication documents (e.g., those in formats such as Atom and RSS)
   usually only contain the last several entries in a longer-lived
   channel (or "feed") of information.  Often, consuming software keeps



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   copies of all entries that have been previously seen, effectively
   keeping a history of the feed's contents.

   However, not all feeds benefit from this practice; in some, old
   entries are not relevant to the current contents of the feed.  For
   example, it's not desireable to keep history in this manner with a
   "top ten" feed; showing old entries would imply that the previous
   number one is now number eleven, and so forth.

   Feeds that encourage this practice have a different problem.  If
   consuming software does not poll often enough, some entries may be
   missed, causing them to be silently omitted.  For some applications,
   this is a serious error on its own.  Even in non-critical
   applications, this phenomenon can cause publishers to make Feed
   Documents contain more entries than reasonably necessary, just to
   assure that consumers have an amply large window in which to
   reconstruct the feed's state.

   This document specifies mechanisms that allow feed publishers to give
   hints as to the nature of the feed with regard to state, and a means
   of retrieving "missed" entries from a stateful feed.  Although it
   refers to Atom normatively, the mechanisms described herein can be
   used with similar syndication formats, such as the various flavours
   of RSS.

2.  Notational Conventions

   The key words "MUST", "MUST NOT", "REQUIRED", "SHALL", "SHALL NOT",
   "SHOULD", "SHOULD NOT", "RECOMMENDED", "MAY", and "OPTIONAL" in this
   document are to be interpreted as described in BCP 14, [RFC2119], as
   scoped to those conformance targets.

   In this specification, "subscription document" refers to an Atom Feed
   Document or similar syndication format (e.g., RSS) that is intended
   to be subscribed to; i.e., it contains the most recent entries
   available in the feed.

   In this specification, "archive document" refers to an Atom Feed
   Document or similar syndication format (e.g., RSS) that is archived;
   i.e., the set of entries inside it does not change over time.  Note
   that some entries in the archive document may also be present in the
   subscription document; in other words, some (but not necessarily all)
   "live" entries might already be archived.

   In this specification, "head section" refers to the children of a
   feed document's document-wide metadata container; e.g., the child
   elements of the atom:feed element in an Atom Feed Document.




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   This specification uses XML Namespaces to uniquely identify XML
   element names.  It uses the following namespace prefix for the
   indicated namespace URI;

   "fh": [[TBD]]

   This specification uses terms from the XML Infoset.  However, this
   specification uses a shorthand; the phrase "Information Item" is
   omitted when naming Element Information Items.  Therefore, when this
   specification uses the term "element," it is referring to an Element
   Information Item in Infoset terms.

3.  The 'fh:stateful' Element

   The fh:stateful element indicates whether the Feed is stateful, and
   MAY occur in a subscription document's head section.  Its content
   MUST be either "true" or "false".  Whitespace in its content MUST be
   ignored by processors.

   For example,

     <fh:stateful>true</fh:stateful>

   If the content of the fh:stateful element is "false", it indicates
   that the subscription document is a complete representation of the
   entire feed; previous entries SHOULD NOT be considered part of the
   feed by consumers.

   For example, a feed that represents a ranking that varies over time,
   such as "Top Twenty Records" or "Most Popular Items" should be marked
   with a fh:stateful element containing "false".

   If the content of the fh:stateful element is "true", it indicates
   that the subscription document is a potentially partial
   representation of the entire feed; previous entries MUST be
   considered part of the feed by consumers.

   For example, a feed that represents a chronological list, such as
   "ExampleCo Press Releases" or "Widget Project Updates" should be
   marked with a fh:stateful element containing "true".

   A subscription document whose fh:stateful element contains "true"
   MUST contain a fh:prev element, unless there are no previous entries
   in the feed.  A subscription document whose fh:stateful element
   contains "false" MUST NOT contain a fh:prev element.






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4.  The 'fh:prev' Element

   The fh:prev element conveys the location of an archive of previous
   entries in the feed, and MAY occur in a subscription document's head
   section.  It MUST occur in an archive document's head section, unless
   there are no previous entries in the feed.

   Its content MUST be a URI reference indicating the previous archive
   document's location.

   For example,

      <fh:prev>http://www.example.com/feed/archive/2005/05</fh:prev>


5.  State Reconstruction

   When presented with a partial representation of a feed, a consumer
   MAY reconstruct the entire feed in a local store by following these
   steps, starting with the subscription document as the current
   document:

   1.  Add all of the entries in the current document to the store.
   2.  Dereference the fh:prev URI, if present.  If it is not present,
       stop processing.
   3.  Using the dereferenced archive document as the current document,
       start at step one (i.e., apply these steps recursively).

   An implementation MAY stop when it encounters an fh:prev URI whose
   entries have been successfully stored beforehand when following this
   process.

   Note that implementations MAY cache archive documents and/or use a
   different method of reconstructing state, as long as the result is
   the same as that achieved by following these steps.

   User-Agents SHOULD warn when they do not have the complete state of a
   feed (e.g., by alerting the user that an archive document is
   unavailable, or inserting pseudo-entries that inform the user that
   some entries may be missing).

   Note that publishers are not required to make all archive documents
   available.








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6.  Examples

   Atom Subscription Document with History

   <?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>
   <feed xmlns="http://purl.org/atom/ns#draft-ietf-atompub-format-09"
     xmlns:history="[TBD]">
     <title>Example Feed</title>
     <link href="http://example.org/"/>
     <updated>2003-12-13T18:30:02Z</updated>
     <author>
       <name>John Doe</name>
     </author>
     <id>urn:uuid:60a76c80-d399-11d9-b93C-0003939e0af6</id>
     <history:stateful>true</history:stateful>
     <history:prev>http://example.org/2003/11/index.atom</history:prev>

     <entry>
       <title>Atom-Powered Robots Run Amok</title>
       <link href="http://example.org/2003/12/13/robots_here"/>
       <id>urn:uuid:1225c695-cfb8-4ebb-aaaa-80da344efa6a</id>
       <updated>2003-12-13T18:30:02Z</updated>
       <summary>Some text in a new, fresh entry.</summary>
     </entry>

   </feed>

























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   Atom Archive Document with History

   <?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>
   <feed xmlns="http://purl.org/atom/ns#draft-ietf-atompub-format-09"
     xmlns:history="[TBD]">
     <title>Example Feed</title>
     <link href="http://example.org/"/>
     <updated>2003-11-24T12:00:00Z</updated>
     <author>
       <name>John Doe</name>
     </author>
     <id>urn:uuid:60a76c80-d399-11d9-b93C-0003939e0af6</id>
     <history:prev>http://example.org/2003/10/index.atom</history:prev>

     <entry>
       <title>Atom-Powered Robots Scheduled To Run Amok</title>
       <link href="http://example.org/2003/11/24/robots_coming"/>
       <id>urn:uuid:cd3272ef-b09c-42fd-806b-e25580e59b39</id>
       <updated>2003-11-24T12:00:00Z</updated>
       <summary>Some text from an old, different entry.</summary>
     </entry>

   </feed>




























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   RSS 2.0 Subscription Document with History

   <?xml version="1.0"?>
   <rss version="2.0" xmlns:history="[TBD]">
    <channel>
     <title>Liftoff News</title>
     <link>http://liftoff.msfc.nasa.gov/</link>
     <description>Liftoff to Space Exploration.</description>
     <language>en-us</language>
     <pubDate>Tue, 10 Jun 2003 04:00:00 GMT</pubDate>
     <lastBuildDate>Tue, 10 Jun 2003 09:41:01 GMT</lastBuildDate>
     <docs>http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/tech/rss</docs>
     <generator>Weblog Editor 2.0</generator>
     <managingEditor>editor@example.com</managingEditor>
     <webMaster>webmaster@example.com</webMaster>
     <history:stateful>true</history:stateful>
     <history:prev>http://liftoff.msfc.nasa.gov/2003/05/feed.rss>

     <item>
      <title>Star City</title>
      <link>http://liftoff.msfc.nasa.gov/2003/06/news-starcity</link>
      <description>How do Americans get ready to work with Russians
      aboard the International Space Station? They take a crash course
      in culture, language and protocol at Russia's <a
      href="http://howe.iki.rssi.ru/GCTC/gctc_e.htm">Star
      City</a>.</description>
      <pubDate>Tue, 03 Jun 2003 09:39:21 GMT</pubDate>
      <guid>http://liftoff.msfc.nasa.gov/2003/06/03.html#item573</guid>
     </item>
    </channel>
   </rss>




















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   RSS 2.0 Archive Document with History

   <?xml version="1.0"?>
   <rss version="2.0" xmlns:history="[TBD]">
    <channel>
     <title>Liftoff News</title>
     <link>http://liftoff.msfc.nasa.gov/</link>
     <description>Liftoff to Space Exploration.</description>
     <language>en-us</language>
     <pubDate>Tue, 30 May 2003 08:00:00 GMT</pubDate>
     <lastBuildDate>Tue, 30 May 2003 10:31:52 GMT</lastBuildDate>
     <docs>http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/tech/rss</docs>
     <generator>Weblog Editor 2.0</generator>
     <managingEditor>editor@example.com</managingEditor>
     <webMaster>webmaster@example.com</webMaster>
     <history:stateful>true</history:stateful>
     <history:prev>http://liftoff.msfc.nasa.gov/2003/04/feed.rss>

     <item>
      <description>Sky watchers in Europe, Asia, and parts of
      Alaska and Canada will experience a partial eclipse of the Sun
      on Saturday, May 31st.</description>
      <pubDate>Fri, 30 May 2003 11:06:42 GMT</pubDate>
      <guid>http://liftoff.msfc.nasa.gov/2003/05/30.html#item572</guid>
     </item>
     <item>
      <title>The Engine That Does More</title>
      <link>http://liftoff.msfc.nasa.gov/2003/05/news-VASIMR.asp</link>
      <description>Before man travels to Mars, NASA hopes to
      design new engines that will let us fly through the Solar
      System more quickly.  The proposed VASIMR engine would do
      that.</description>
      <pubDate>Tue, 27 May 2003 08:37:32 GMT</pubDate>
      <guid>http://liftoff.msfc.nasa.gov/2003/05/27.html#item571</guid>
     </item>
    </channel>
   </rss>


7.  Security Considerations

   Feeds using the mechanisms described here could be crafted in such a
   way as to cause a User-Agent to initiate excessive (or even an
   unending sequence of) network requests, causing denial of service
   (either to the User-Agent, the target server, and/or intervening
   networks).  This risk can be mitigated by requiring user intervention
   after a certain number of requests, or by limiting requests either
   according to a hard limit, or with heuristics.



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   User-Agents should be mindful of resource limits when storing feed
   state; to reiterate, they are not required to always store or
   reconstruct feed state when conforming to this specification; they
   only need inform the user when state is partial.

8.  Normative References

   [RFC2119]  Bradner, S., "Key words for use in RFCs to Indicate
              Requirement Levels", BCP 14, RFC 2119, March 1997.


Author's Address

   Mark Nottingham

   Email: mnot@pobox.com
   URI:   http://www.mnot.net/


































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