WordPress makes a move towards hAtom, gets upgrades

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I missed WordCamp this weekend (owing to the fact that I was presenting at Wikimania) but there seems to have been some good announcements that came out of the event.

For one thing, the hosted WordPress service added a few features, one of which is a $15 premier service that lets you edit your CSS. Blogger offers this service for free, but heck, WordPress is still independent and needs to have a way to bring in some dough — and as this is a highly desirable feature, will probably lead to income for the Automattic folks at least a fraction of what Cyworld is pulling in with all their custom digital paraphernalia and trinkets.

So but that’s not all… no, Andy Skelton announced (from what I hear) the availability of a new skeleton theme called Sandbox that is designed for themers. If you’re on WordPress.com you can go enable it now, as I have (it’s totally basic, so I imagine that you’ll see a lot of styles start to appear for it) or download it to put on your own blog.

I’ll actually be doing this once I return to San Francisco.


Simple: Sandbox is the first known theme to support hAtom.

Why does this matter?

The same reason why hResume matters. And then some. It’s because it not only puts more of the power of publishing into the author’s hands, but it also removes the need to RSS or ATOM.

Let me say that again: because the Sandbox theme is marked up with hAtom in its HTML, there’s no need to supply an alternative link to RSS or ATOM because the page itself is able to be read by newsreaders.

Or, will be. In the meantime, we can use Chris Casciano‘s script for NetNewWire to allow client-side subscribing or server-side transforms to convert any page into a subscribable document.

The potential here is immense — if Matt’s able to move the entirety of the WordPress.com theme base over to hAtom, we’d have quite the playground for an HTML-based syndication format, removing the overhead of generating RSS or ATOM feeds. Instead, you’d subscribe to a website and its content, not some anti-DRY format.

Update: Bill Humphries has released a version of Kubrick that supports hAtom.

Author: Chris Messina

Head of West Coast Business Development at Republic. Ever-curious product designer and technologist. Hashtag inventor. Previously: Molly.com (YC W18), Uber, Google.

27 thoughts on “WordPress makes a move towards hAtom, gets upgrades”

  1. Kinda strange to have a link around Andy’s name that points to my site. We collaborated to create the Sandbox, so it’s understandable. 😉

    So far I’ve seen a lot of people start to play with styles on WordPress.com. I imagine people who’ve downloaded the theme, though, will take slightly longer to produce their skins.

    Let’s see. Yes, we’re pretty excited about hAtom support, though the published date in an abbr tag has created quite a commotion. We’ll get used to the idea. Also, Luke has produced a very interesting proxy for converting hAtom to Atom, so that might be fun to play with for Sandbox users.

  2. That sounds pretty interesting. I’ve just been developing RSS feeds for my employer. It’d be great to see this hAtom technology used further afield and not just limited to blogs.

  3. @kj: ideally it will — and anywhere that you mark something up with hAtom, you could theoretically subscribe to it — whenever it changes. It need not be blog content.

  4. Sandbox is a very strong candidate for the basis of a new default in WordPress.

  5. Perhaps I don’t see the advantage in providing one URL for both syndication and presentation, nor the immense potential of yet another different way to syndicate the same old data. It seems to me that hAtom would also do two things I don’t like:

    Make theme authors responsible for embedding markup for my syndication.
    Removing my control over differentiating what I present on my site and what I syndicate via feed.

    hAtom does not address Atom publishing (versus syndication) at all. A full implementation of the Atom protocol might allow WordPress to compete with more full featured hosted packages, like Blogger.

  6. @ Owen: I’d love to see WordPress provide 1st class support for Atom 1.0 and Atom Publishing Protocol. Several candidate patches are out there, I use them, but they haven’t been committed to the trunk (or whatever you call the Trunk in SVN.)

    The hAtom approach isn’t perfect, but it will allow people who aren’t comfortable with, or able to modify their WordPress installs to provide Atom feeds.

  7. Oops. I think your Andy Skelton link actually points to Scott’s site. 😉 No big deal, though I might cross my eyes the next time I get an email sent to me that beings, “Hey Andy,” ROTFL. What a day.

  8. What most excites me about Sandbox is how fully “classed” it is. Everything has multiple classes, to the point where you can do things purely in CSS that would have required PHP scripting before. Making your “about” page look different than your “contact” page can now be done with a few CSS rules, and nary a line of PHP. I’m really excited to see what amazing CSS the theme designers are going to create for this theme.

  9. compete with blogger? The reason blogger is the biggest is because they were the first big free blog host. they have not done anything to innovate since they redesigned their templates in may of 2004. Most people start a blog based on what they are reading.

  10. BTW, I’m not excited about hAtom because I think it will replace RSS or Atom. (Not in a million years. :)) Rather, it offers a normalized semantic way to class elements of a page, which is something we’ve been trying to get folks to agree on for years. I think consistency in templates here will be a big boon to people just starting to learn HTML and CSS.

  11. While “fully classed” there are some holes. Hopefully we will get those “filled” as more people work on this and uncover them. All help is welcome.

    For the sophisticated designer, this is a dream. For the newbie, it’s a nightmare, so I’m hoping we can do enough documentation to support this and keep everyone happy.

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