June 29, 2007

Get ready for mod_atom

Author: Shirl Kennedy

There may or may not be a need for an Apache module implementation of the Atom Publishing Protocol, but Tim Bray has gone ahead and created one anyhow.

Bray, director of Web technologies for Sun Microsystems, has been a major force behind the Atom Protocol and, of course, XML.

Why does Bray think there's demand for mod_atom? "I think that the protocol is going to be a big enough part of the Web ecosystem that Apache, as perhaps the world's single most important piece of Web infrastructure, really ought to support it."

Bray describes the module as "stripped-down implementation of the server side of the Atom Publishing Protocol" written in C, which "implements all of the Atom Protocol, near as I can tell." It simplifies the creation of Atom feeds because it "blasts Atom Entries straight into files," which means it's easier to preserve foreign markup.

This is still a work in progress. Bray says it's "not really ready to use" but he published it "because I want to start talking and get some advice and opinions on what I should do about some things, and thatââ¬â¢s easier if you can point at source code."

Bray says it's missing two pieces, one big (HTML) and one small (collection paging), and a "major enhancement" he wants to add:

The big enhancement I want to do is non-destructive editing. Right now it implements PUT by replacing the old data with the new, and DELETE by, well, deleting the data. I think it would be better, in all cases, to copy the data aside, uh, somewhere. But I want to talk to people about this one too, because I suspect it may involve weird corners.

Bray offers some suggestions in his post for other prospective tinkers, including trying it out on a variety of systems, since he says he's only tested it on Mac OS X. The module is licensed under the Apache License, version 2, and Bray says he has Sun's blessing to "sign over whatever to whomever," if the Apache Software Foundation (ASF) is interested.

Shirl Kennedy is the senior editor of theDocuTickerandResourceShelfWeblogs as well as the "Internet Waves" columnist forInformation Today. She has been writing about technology since 1992.


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