(This fanciful relating of facts is only partially based on the truth - I’m certain it contains errors, but I wouldn’t want them to get in the way of a good story.)
In the beginning, there was the blogosphere. Everyone was happy, because it worked they way they thought it should - people made links to other posts, and so on.
There there was darkness upon the face of the linkage, as vain and lazy people, desiring to know who linked to them but too lazy to look at referrer logs, created the TrackBack protocol.
In time, the mask becomes the face, and so the TrackBack protocol, and siblings such as the PingBack protocol, were declared good. And there was a transformation in how the blogosphere functioned. Now, instead of people doing “common decent things” like e-mailing someone to say “hey! I linked to you”, they entrusted the protocols to do it for them.
It was the advent of the depersonalization of the web.
In time, additional vain and lazy people, who thought that their reading of other people’s content was more important than taking time out to appreciate other people’s presentation, created the RSS protocol.
It was the second day of the depersonalization of the web.
More vain and lazy people - people who wanted to “respond” to a post in a blog, but didn’t want to bother creating their own weblog and doing a trackback - advocated the creation of the “comments” feature, whereby comments could be added to a post. While some people think this is a good thing it does, quite clearly, just make life more complicated. To work around these complications, several people created RSS comment feeds both on a per post basis (prior art here) as well as on a per comment-author basis. This was seen as just the beginning of a grand plan to take over the world known as Microcontent Wiki.
I, however, see it as something entirely different.
People are objects that emit content. There are repositories of the emitted content. Content is sometimes emitted in response to other content. Because content is emitted at a specific point in time, the content emission patterns, when seen in relation to what they were emitted in response to, form what is often known as a “discussion thread”.
(Do not concern yourself with who “owns” the repositories of the content - content is so easily duplicated/mirrored now-a-days that there is little point in imagining that one can truly maintain “ownership” over it at all. Besides, does it matter? Content is a commodity.)
Various protocols in the past have supported the viewing of content as a “discussion thread”. The “revolution” (NOT!) that the RSS/TrackBack/PingBack and other technologies associated with the “blogosphere” advocate is that the content can “stay” in it’s original place and not need to go to some other (and implicitly that “otherness” is bad ask yourself why!) central server (such as an NNTP or SMTP server) before being viewed. That’s it! That’s all there is to the “revolution”.
Once we realize this, we realize that all that is left is to not just provide suitable feeds of comments, but also suitable feeds of TrackBack events, and then to have an RSS client that makes it easy to access the full content of the TrackBack post, as well as that post’s comment and TrackBack feeds as well, and so on and so forth recursively through all the TrackBack entries found in the TrackBack feed.
We don’t live in a bandwidth or CPU-cycle free world yet, and the ultimate problem with something like Syncato is that someone needs to either transmit (and use bandwidth for) an (eventually) large XML file and let the client do XPath stuff, or the server dishing out the content needs to spend potentially valuable CPU cycles evaluating the XPath query.
If you want a “distributed conversation protocol” then go for it - but stop imagining that the blogosphere is going to evolve into anything other than that - because that’s part of the consequence of having entities that emit content in response to other emitted content at a particular point in time.2071