Today The Podcast Standards Project (PSP) officially wills itself into existence. Wonderfully proud to be part of this effort. More about that in a sec.
PSP was informally established in 2022 by a consortium of independent, prominent players in the podcast space with the purpose of protecting the open nature of podcasting, enabled by the decentralized distribution of RSS.
That’s a fancy way of saying someone’s gotta fight for openness and PSP is stepping up to be that someone. RSS is our rally cry.
The environment out of which The Podcast Standards Project sprang is not unlike the environment from which The Web Standards Project (WaSP), a similar consortium established to protect the open nature of the web, emerged in its early years:
“When The Web Standards Project (WaSP) formed in 1998, the web was the battleground in an ever-escalating war between two browser makers—Netscape and Microsoft—who were each taking turns ‘advancing’ HTML to the point of collapse. You see, in an effort to one-up each other, the two browsers introduced new elements and new ways of manipulating web documents; this escalated to the point where their respective 4.0 versions were largely incompatible.” (source)
This bears a strong resemblance to podcasting today. Without the establishment of PSP and the support of its allies, podcasting risks becoming a closed environment held captive by only a handful of dominant players who may have competing, commercially-defined priorities that drive disjoined, proprietary visions of podcasting’s future.
For those of us raised in the early days of fighting for standards, this isn’t our first rodeo. We’ve got a long road ahead. But if the browser wars of the 90s and 00s are any indication, buckle up cuz this is a battle worth fighting.
I joined PSP as a contributing member in November 2022.
By then, several individuals from overlapping and, to some degree, competing products — Buzzsprout, Red Circle, Captivate, Acast, Transitor, etc. — had already begun working on what would become the group’s first deliverable unveiled today: PSP-1 Podcast RSS Specification, a baseline standard for podcast RSS feeds. (Think of this as table stakes for anyone building podcast tech.) Shockingly, no fisticuffs were employed in the alignment of competing but friendly PSP constituents working toward their first deliverable.
Part of my role with PSP is to lead all things visual. By the time I joined Kevin Finn, co-founder of Buzzsprout and one of the group’s preeminent leaders, had done an early pass at some branding work. I took his rough cut and gave it some polish, eventually settling on the assets you see here:
The website materialized through the very capable hands of another early web standards pioneer and genuine friend, Joshua Blankenship. His seasoned handiwork took our branding assets to a new level. Hot stuff.
Where you come in
Time and time again, open ecosystems have proven to be the greatest lever for leveling the tech playing field. When ecosystems are built on openness, every creator has a fair shot at success. Every consumer has a fair shake at access.
We call on friends of podcasting everywhere to become an ally for open. There are bunch of ways you can get involved:
- Spread the word: this post, the website, press release, or give a shoutout to @PodStandards
- Contribute to the Podcast RSS Spec
- Get certified if you’re a developer, founder, or creator
- Join us on GitHub and submit a proposal — we’re all ears
The list of individuals to thank is tremendously long. Thankfully there’s a page for that. Highest of fives to those listed, and just important, a high five at the ready for those of you who will join our cause.
Buckle up. The rodeo’s just getting started.