Blogging Web

A Feed By Any Other Name

Marc complains about the branding confusion for feeds. When O’Reilly decided to only support ATOM feeds they kept getting requests for RSS feeds, not because people were so up in arms that O’Reilly wasn’t supporting their preferred format, but because they didn’t realize that the information they wanted was already available as a feed. I think Marc is right, ATOM suffers from an awareness problem. For better or for worse many people (especially the less technical) equate RSS with a feed and vis-versa. So for these folks, if you don’t have those three letters (RSS) on your feed then you don’t have a feed.

The solution that O’Reilly has decided to take for this awareness problem is to more or less revert back a few years and start plastering those ugly little RSS icons in place of the currently less ugly ATOM icons. They aren’t going to make it overly obvious what format the feed is in, this is a good idea. What I’d like to see if for the feed links to be a bit more descriptive, like “blog post feed” or “blog comment feed” or “comments on this post feed”. One of the things that has annoyed with how many sites describe feeds is that they don’t really describe they at all, instead relying on the format they use as their only meaningful description. There are so many different bits of information that are made available via feeds now it simply isn’t good enough to simply go hey, here’s my feed. Users need to know what data is included in the feed.

Personally I’d love to see this whole feed format terminology more or less go away. The bulk of the public doesn’t care if you are using HTML or XHTML for your website, or which version of each, they simply want to know where your website is at. So let’s get people asking where your feeds are like they ask for your email address (for which they also don’t care if you use MS Exchange, Sendmail, Postfix, Qmail or Exim) and your website.