12 Dec 2015


Web feeds are used by the blogging community to share recent entries' headlines, full text, and even attached multimedia files. These providers allow other websites to incorporate the blog's "syndicated" headline or headline-and-short-summary feeds under various usage agreements. There are two commonly used feed formats, they are RSS FEED and ATOM FEED. We are going to clarify the differences between the two feed formats.

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RSS 2.0 Feed 

RSS 2.0 has the widest acceptance of any feed format. Much of that has to do with the defector use of it by WordPress, but it is also the one variety of RSS format that seems to have solved some of the problems presented by earlier versions. Of the two feed types, RSS is most widely used but also has significant downfalls.

For one, RSS does not allow any well-formed XML markup in it’s content. This is very bad when it comes to using RSS-syndicated content elsewhere. In fact, it only supports plain text or escaped HTML which, without getting into the technical issues surrounding that, simply means it’s very difficult to work with.

RSS has only three required fields on a per item basis- title, link and description. There are a variety of optional fields but some key features, such as a “last updated” field are missing. 

Atom 1.0 Feed 

Atom is a relatively recent spec and is much more robust and feature-rich than RSS. For instance, where RSS requires descriptive fields such as title and link only in item breakdowns, Atom requires these things for both items and the full feed.

And my favorite – Atom feeds provide an “updated” field which means that any feeds that are modified have a time stamp associated with them. 

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A cool feature of Atom has to do with auto-discovery. Most of the time, if you point your browser to a feed-enabled website, auto-discovery kicks in and the browser alerts you in its own unique way to the presence of a feed. The same thing happens when you point a feed reader to a feed-enabled website as opposed to the specific feed itself. While feed auto-discovery has been around for a long time, Atom feeds actually contain a self pointer auto-discovery URL which is highly unique from RSS itself.

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