Ultra-conservative RSS publishing

Sunday 30 March 2003

Since I’ve been trying AmphetaDesk, I’ve been visiting lots of sites trying to subscribe to their RSS feeds. AmphetaDesk provides a bookmarklet that tries to find the RSS feed for a page and if it can, subscribes you to it. It isn’t as persistent as Mark Pilgrim’s Ultra-liberal RSS locator, but it tries to locate <link> tags on the current page. Now, many sites don’t provide RSS at all, but many that do still can’t be auto-subscribed in this way.

If you provide an RSS feed of your page, do these things:

  1. Provide a <link rel=’alternate’ type=’application/rss+xml’ href=’...’ /> tag to help auto-subscribers find it.
  2. Make sure the href attribute in that tag is an absolute URL.
  3. Make sure your web server provides an appropriate MIME type for that file.

(I couldn’t auto-subscribe to my own site because of #2!)

I agree with Mark Pilgrim’s philosophy that the locator should be as clever and persistent (liberal) as possible. But I also believe that providers should remove as many barriers to subscription as possible, by being as careful and strictly conformant (conservative) as possible.

There’s a pithy classic quote about this very principle, and I can’t find it now (d’oh).

On the other hand, Rob Fahrni and Brian Cantoni were brought together by an invalid RSS feed. Who says web technology can’t bridge the gap between people?

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