Next month marks the tenth anniversary of RFC 2445 (iCalendar), the specification that describes how Internet applications represent and exchange calendar information. The authors of RFC 2445 were Frank Dawson (now with Nokia) and Derik Stenerson (now with Microsoft). I asked both to join me to reflect on the past, present, and future of this key standard. Only Derik was available, and he’s my guest for this week’s ITConversations show.
If you’ve followed my blog you’ll know that I’ve come to regard the ICS files that iCalendar-aware apps create and consume as feeds that could and should form a syndication ecosystem analogous to the RSS ecosystem. So in addition to filling us in on how iCalendar came to be, Derik considers whether the analogy holds water, and concludes that it probably does.
Although iCalendar has been around for a decade, I argue that the confluence of syndication and personal publishing, in the calendar domain, requires three enablers.
First, you need a workable syndication format, and we have that: RSS for blogs, ICS for calendars.
Second, you need what we used to call one-button personal publishing. Bloggers have had that capability for a long time. Calendar users have it too, but it’s emerged relatively recently, and many aren’t aware of it.
Third, you need feed aggregators. These proliferate in blogspace but, I argue, are conspicously absent from calendar space. Services like Eventful and Upcoming produce calendar feeds. But because they do not consume them, they don’t encourage individuals and groups to publish feeds, and to think and act in a syndication-oriented way. I’ve prototyped a calendar aggregator at http://elmcity.info/events/, but the category isn’t yet well-established.
If my analysis is correct, one or more well-known services that both consume and produce calendar feeds would unlock the latent potential of iCalendar and help us jumpstart a calendar syndication ecosystem.