Panlibus Blog

Microsoft IE7 + A9 Opensearch – a marriage made in Open heaven

As reported by the Amazon Web Services Blog and the IEBlog there have been some behind the scenes efforts between the Microsoft IE7 development team and their colleagues at Amazon’s A9 to roll Opensearch capability into the next IE release.

So why did Microsoft team go down this route? Because it was simple and built on stuff they had already:

IE7 Beta1 shipped with a set of 5 search providers and there wasn?t a way (short of hacking the registry) to add more search providers. When we started looking into how a site should describe itself, our first thought was the ?src? format. After all, it was pretty simple and it could describe how to construct the query to get the search result page back.

There were 2 things that made us pause, however. First, ?src? isn?t XML. This meant that we would need to write a custom parser. A new format would bring its share of security threats. ?src? didn?t seem so simple anymore. Second and more important, OpenSearch 1.0 had brought forward the idea of programming, re-mixing and subscribing to search results…. … With search being such an important aspect of our user?s daily lives, a browser ought to do something special with search results. In OpenSearch, we saw the foundation for making this happen in future releases of IE….

…OpenSearch 1.0 describes how to get search results as RSS. IE7 has great RSS support and renders search result RSS in a very readable way. So, IE7 could be backwards compatible with OpenSearch 1.0. But, we needed a format that could *also* describe a site with only an HTML interface.

Ah, but what about licensing – Creative Commons rides to the rescue again!

Only one thing stood in the way. Aaron and I looked through the OpenSearch spec and couldn?t find how it was licensed. We wanted to make sure it was as easy as possible to deploy this technology. The feedback from releasing the simple list extensions under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license was very positive. Our preference was that OpenSearch would have a similar license. We mailed Dewitt and within minutes, got a response from his BlackBerry that A9 was indeed planning on releasing OpenSearch 1.1 under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5, the very same license as simple list extensions.

And what have A9 got out of it – other than the not so insignificant point of having a massive validation of their handy little search standard? Well, validating and pushing some of the extra functionality in OpenSerch 1.1 [draft] standard. which includes extensibility around search formats, support for atom based feeds and http POSTs, XML Namespace extensions in the query.

Opensearch 1.1, starts to address some of the issues I mused about back in March:

OpenSearch I fully expect to grow beyond A9. It has a great opportunity to become a de facto simple search interface. With a bit of help from the library community, there is no reason why it couldn’t be built upon to become a suitable alternative for some of our search protocols, that are not so simple. [Do I hear a little cheer from the developers who have ever tried to get their head around implementing Z39.50]

There is an opportunity for our domain to build upon Opensearch to provide easy integration of Library searches in to the world of the Library user. As Lorcan Dempsey also suggests:

it is time for SRU/Metasearch/NISO/somebody to come out with some simple explanatory materials explaining the relationship between MXG, SRU, SRW, and Z39.50; a routemap for the future suggesting who should adopt what and what should go away; and materials explaining the relationship between a hopefully reduced set of these acronyms and OpenSearch.

The two questions that the promoters of SRU, SRW, and Z39.50 must ask themselves are 1. How come Microsoft have managed to influence Opensearch 1.1, but we have not?; and 2. A SRU client is as easy to implement as an Opensearch one so why, despite the fact that the standard has been around far longer, did it not get adopted by Amazon and perhaps more significantly by Microsoft?

Whilst you ponder those, lets all celebrate the the way developments and cooperations, only a few months ago the mere suggestion of which would have brought incredulity, just seem to happen in this Web 2.0 world. Why, because its easy technically and easy commercially.

3 Responses

  1. tony Says:

    One possible reason why SRU hasn’t been taken up by the blogging’n'hacking community is because there isn’t a place to register your search feed – whereas you can lodge your OpenSearch feed at a9.com (but not anywhere else?)

    What surprises me is the dearth of desktop clients (firefox extensions, konfabulator widgets etc) for consuming osrss. Perhaps now MicroSoft are interested, the widgets and extensions will appear as people try to beat Microsoft to it… And will the library developer community beat them to it with a generic SRU widget..? ;-)

    I believe that the folks at CISTI were looking at adding SRU consumption to their Konfabulator widget (http://www.widgetgallery.com/view.php?widget=36958), which is interesting…

    And I wonder how easy it would be to take the new SOAP widget (http://www.widgetgallery.com/view.php?widget=37218) and do an SRW mod to it?

  2. tony Says:

    Here’s another reason – osrss is based on rss, which makes it easier for non-technical people to work out how to consume it (whether through bloglines, sage, live bookmarks, an rss reader, an rss-2-javascript service or whatever).

    The same isn’t true of SRU…

    Our library took a similar approach in defining a bespoke XML feed for our ROUTES useful links service (http://routes.open.ac.uk/routes_xml.php?course=Technology). Offhand, how many clients can you think of that could consume this, compared to, say, an RSS feed containing the same info? ;-)

  3. Next Generation Shopping Says:

    A9 OpenSearch Integration – Comparison Shopping

    In September there were reports of an IE7 and A9 integration… So SecretPrices.com has released its comparison shopping search results using the OpenSearch format by A9.com. Search the OpenSearch columns list for “secretprices” to check it out.

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