It's been widely reported that iTunes 4.9 will include podcatching capabilities. To those of you who may not know what that means check out the "What is Podcasting?" section of iPodder.org. [Warning this site is slow.] The short version is that it will allow you to subscribe and download podcasts automatically to your iPod using iTunes, presumably both on the Mac and PC. This is fantastic news on two fronts. First, I think Apple is the first big firm to legitimize podcasting. This is smart thing to do for them because although podcasting really isn't about the iPod Apple has just made it really simple for lots of people to get into listening to podcasts. The installed base of the iPod is massive. Now everyone of those people will have a new feature of iTunes to play with and who knows many of them may get hooked. I don't really count Sirius and their decision to bring on Adam Curry as being equivalent. They aren't really doing podcasting but maybe only promoting it in one of their channels for a few hours a day. Maybe if they start offering content via RSS I'll tip my hat to them but until then their just adding content to their satellite radio network. Apple's contribution is a direct contribution to grow the market. Of course Apple was really the only company in this position because of the nature of the iPod and it's ligatures to iTunes. Second, I whole heartedly agree with Dave Winer that this is a continued validation of RSS. Listen to his podcast about it. I think he's dead on about the announcement with the exception of a few points I'll enumerate later. This is the second tip-o-the-hat Apple has made to RSS. The first being RSS support in Safari. Microsoft has yet to respond. I have a feeling that will change if the new version of IE ever ships. I don't think they can stay silent for too long. Their entry is inevitable. Where I disagree with Dave Winer is that I think Apple will probably pre-load some podcasts and be very selective about who gets into that initial podcast bookmark list. Dave says it freezes out the wider podcasting community. No question. I just don't think its bad or something to worry about. I think we have to worry about it as much as we have to worry about pre-loaded bookmarks in all our browsers. Also, it's not about the icon. Dave Winer comments that the blue "RSS" chicklet in Safari should be the orange "XML" chicklet. I think even Dave realizes this is a small issue. I think this eventually will fade and Apple, and the community, may come up with something different. I mean wouldn't an icon that said "Feed" be what we really want? Isn't it time to disassociate the application (RSS) from the format (XML)? In any case, a big day for podcasting. Lots of fun to come I'm sure.