I've been meaning to write this post for a verrryyyy long time, so long that it should be outdated by now (but, unfortunately, it's not). Here's the deal: I keep running across sites that offer the same exact content as an RSS feed and an Atom feed.
What's the point of this? Making readers choose a feed format is like asking them to choose between an HTML and XHTML version of your site - technically there are differences, but end users shouldn't have to care about this. They just want to subscribe to your words of wisdom without having to deal with the plumbing.
Even worse, I often see RSS and Atom feeds which contain the same content yet identify posts differently (i.e.: the GUID for a post in the RSS feed is different from the ID of the same post in the Atom feed). As a result, feed search engines show posts from both feeds as though they were different, which to end users looks like duplication.
So, if you currently offer multiple feed formats, may I suggest that you stop doing this? Just pick a format - any format. If RSS does what you need, stick with it and dump your Atom feed. If you need the extra features that the Atom format offers, dump your RSS feed. Either way you'll be fine, and your readers will be happier.
And if you're just starting out, pick one format and forget about the other one. It doesn't matter to your readers which one you choose, so there's no need to agonize over the decision (and you can always switch to the other format later on).
What's interesting to me about this is that NewsCast is opt-in - we're not going to re-syndicate your work without your permission. I think this is important, since I've seen similar services which re-syndicate feeds without the author's approval. If you're a blogger and you'd like to take advantage of this service, you can find out more about it here.
Related to this, it's also interesting to see feed syndication continue to break out of the aggregator. More and more sites are displaying posts from bloggers next to articles written by professional journalists, which is quite a change from the world of print syndication. You can include me among those who see this as a good thing. IMO, more bloggers should figure out how they can exist side-by-side with the "mainstream media" instead of thinking they can replace it.
Scott Hanselman has been having a conversation with Microsoft's Sean Lyndersay about the feed URI scheme (aka: feed:// protocol), specifically about why IE7 doesn't support it. Since I was among the RSS aggregator developers who promoted this scheme, I figure I should chime in here.
The feed URI scheme was invented to deal with the problem of mainstream browsers spewing XML when a user clicked a link to a feed. In theory, MIME types were supposed to help in situations like this, but in practice MIME types weren't a reliable solution. So, to get around this usability nightmare, many aggregator developers suggested using a feed:// pseudo-protocol for feed links, so that applications could register themselves as the default application for that protocol. This way, clicking a link to an RSS feed would subscribe to that feed in the user's aggregator.
Now, I'll be the first to admit that the feed URI scheme was never a perfect solution to feed subscription, especially since clicking a feed:// link would cause the browser to display a cryptic error message when no application was associated with feed://. But it did work well when an aggregator was installed, which IMO was an improvement upon spewing XML regardless of whether the user had installed an aggregator.
However, now that mainstream browsers do a better job with subscription, I'm less inclined to promote the use of the feed URI scheme. Firefox, Safari, Opera and (soon) Internet Explorer understand feed subscription, so clicking an RSS/XML button is a far more user-friendly experience than it used to be. Given this, I don't think it's a big deal that IE7 won't support the feed URI scheme. It would be nice if it did, but it's not a deal-breaker for me.
That said, I agree with Scott that it's odd that IE7 doesn't support feed:// given that Outlook 2007 does support it. And it's also odd that Sean's reasoning for not supporting it is because Microsoft believes aggregators should integrate with the Windows RSS Platform (in Sean's words, they want to "deprecate the notion of a single feed reader, and instead, promote the idea that feeds can and should be consumed from multiple different applications"). If that's the case, I have to wonder why Outlook 2007 doesn't integrate more closely with the RSS Platform. As far as I can tell, Outlook 2007 does support the common feed list, but it uses its own feed storage rather than that provided by the RSS platform. I'm sure they have sound technical and/or scheduling reasons behind this decision, but the fact that one of Microsoft's most widely-used applications doesn't fully integrate with the Windows RSS platform could make the platform less attractive to third-party developers.
Just got word that Jack and Keley Brewster became first-time parents at 11am today thanks to the arrival of 7 pound, 11 ounce Connor Zane Brewster. My congrats to the new parents!
If you've ever visited the NewsGator forums, you probably already know Jack - he's the guy who used to help out in my own forums before I was acquired by NewsGator, and we brought him on board to handle support for TopStyle and FeedDemon. He's done an excellent job since then, but chances are his forums posts will be a little light for the next few weeks :)
Update: Check out Jack's blog for baby pictures.
New "Web 2.0" companies are springing up like weeds these days, and many of them sound interesting enough to pay attention to - but who has time to really try them all? I certainly don't, so I've come up with a simple filter to figure out which ones to pay attention to:
Any new Web 2.0 company that hasn't considered the spam problem automatically isn't worth my time.
That seems to cut out 99% of them. After all, any company that expects to graduate beyond early adopters into a wider audience must consider how it could be hurt by spammers and their ilk. If your startup hasn't thought about this from day one, then I figure it doesn't have much of a future.
This morning one of my FeedDemon watches turned up this WashingtonPost.com article about the NSA's harvesting of phone records. My watch was for the keyword "FeedDemon" so I was surprised to see this article turn up - and I was even more surprised to see that the article listed FeedDemon among the software tools used by the NSA.
Based on the subject of the article, I initially assumed that the software listed was all used for the illegal collection of phone records, but a closer read showed that the list was simply of software that was used by the NSA for any reason (whew!).