RSS & Atom

RSS & Atom are types of web feeds that access online content update and convert 'em into XML.

RSS (Rich Site Summary or Really Simple Syndication respectively) and Atom (Atom Syndication Format) are types of web feeds allowing users and applications to access updates to online content in a standardized, computer-readable format, mostly in XML (eXtensible Markup Language). Such feeds can, for example, allow a user to keep track of many different websites in a single news aggregator.

RSS and Atom are the two main standards of web syndication. Atom was developed to avoid the limitations and flaws of RSS. Though Atom is more robust than RSS, the latter still remains a widely used standard. Just as how Xerox has become synonymous to photocopying, RSS has generally become a common term to refer to all feeds including Atom.

This Site’s Feeds

Food 4 Aggregators

A feed is a stream of data meant to be interpreted by a feed reader, like RSSOwl. The following URLs get you the respective feeds. Right-click to copy these links for the Feed Aggregator of your choice:

For an Atom version of any of these feeds, add /atom (instead of /feed) to the end of the above URLs.

Today’s Situation

Many internet browsers have given up on maintaining its once integrated / built-in feed readers and interpreters considering it no longer sustainable to keep feed support in the core of their product.

This may be due to feeds probably not meshing well with the internet’s data gathering industry because such feeds allow users to consume web content (though usually not the full text of a site’s articles) without triggering the dozens or even hundreds of analytics scripts lurking on web pages. Also, the big shots in the search and social media industry that have their own mechanisms for content aggregation have a disincentive to promote RSS or Atom apps as an alternative.

Podcasts are also distributed using RSS. To listen to a podcast, a user adds the RSS feed to their podcast client, and the client can then list available episodes and download or stream them for listening or viewing.

Is RSS Dead?

While RSS feeds are still in use, they’re becoming less popular with the use of social media and email subscriptions. Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn bring you the latest news from a site if you follow their profile. The downside: You might not always catch the post in your feed on time or you have to swift through a sea of posts to find what you want. In this case, RSS feeds are still advantageous for users. Additionally, RSS feeds allow you to tailor your content so that users get exactly what they want.

With hundreds of millions of users, the potential to recover billions in lost profits, and uses that we haven’t even thought of yet, RSS will reign for many more years. Of course, it will evolve and newer technology will come along that accomplishes the same goal even easier and better, but that just ensures its legacy – a legacy that already reaches back almost 20 years.

Even when RSS is a footnote in the annals of web communications, it’s impact will still be felt for decades to come. Thus, RSS feeds aren’t as widely used, but they are still very much beneficial.

Subscribe To Feeds

Subscribing to a feed requires a feed reader. You can download special desktop clients or apply add-ons / extensions to your browser for this purpose and some websites even provide feed reading services as well. Some services deliver RSS to an email inbox. See also: WebSub. The reader you use is entirely your call and the process of subscribing will be different for each. Here’s a list of feed readers that you can use: Comparison of Feed Aggregators

Nowadays, users most probably notice an error like “This XML file does not appear to have any style information associated with it. The document tree is shown below” followed by the raw feed. Or you may get a popup asking you to either safe this file or which program you wanted to use to open it with or whatever.

This is normal, as browsers are not built anymore to interpret feeds. Instead, subscribe to the feed in a real feed reader (see Comparison of Feed Aggregators abvoe), or for Chrome install the RSS Subscription Extension or any Other Extension, you’ll find in their web store. For Firefox you may choose one of these Add-Ons and for Opera one of these Extensions.

Your Benefits

As the web has become more and more crowded, it makes a lot of sense to have fresh and up to date content delivered to you, the website visitor. You may therefore want to easily utilize the information in RSS feeds to get automated web content brought to you instead you having to get it.

The beauty of RSS is that you can quickly scan headlines (titles) and read articles of interest. Because the information is condensed and provided in a single location you can generally review more information in a shorter time frame. Additional information is only a click away.

Best of all, there is no spam with RSS. If you are not completely thrilled with the content appearing in a feed simply remove it from the newsreader. It is a pull technology rather than a push technology, meaning the content is not forced on to you. Instead, you pull the content you want to see.