I've recently decided to consolidate the various syndication feeds for my blog. Historically I've offered the following feeds:

  • rss2.xml: a full-text RSS 2.0 feed. This is by far the most used. It's what my RSS auto-discovery link advertises.
  • index.rdf: the "classic" excerpt only RSS 0.91 feed from MovableType. Roughly 5-10% of my subscribers seem to use it, probably unaware of the full content feed.
  • atom.xml: this is the Atom 0.3 feed that I manually stuck in a few years ago when I was worried that someone wouldn't be able to subscribe if I didn't provide Atom. Heh.
  • index.xml: the original RSS 1.0 (aka, RDF) feed that MT shipped with ages ago. Almost nobody uses this.

So I dropped some 301 (permanent) HTTP redirects into my Apache configuration a few days ago and am watching my logs to see how long it takes aggregators to get the clue and start consuming rss2.xml.

The results aren't terribly encouraging right now. Consumption of the less popular feeds hasn't dropped as I hoped it might. But I'm going to give it some time and see what happens. If, after a few weeks, they still seem to be used by more than a handful of readers, I'll probably hand-craft a custom message that may encourage them to update their software or at leas subscribe to the "correct" feed.

This will be interesting to watch...

Posted by jzawodn at June 21, 2006 01:42 PM

Reader Comments
# James Fee said:

Good luck, 1 year later and I'm still getting requests for the old feeds. The aggregators are forwarding correctly, but just don't seem to register the permanent redirect.

on June 21, 2006 02:09 PM
# Sam Ruby said:

Funky RSS with double escaped titles: guaranteed to display incorrectly in Dave's NewsRiver, Microsoft's IE7, and Mozilla's Thunderbird. Sweet!

on June 21, 2006 02:14 PM
# Jesper Rønn-Jensen (justaddwater.dk) said:

Just a few days ago, we also consolidated our RSS feeds at Justaddwater.dk

This was inspired by Nick Bradbury's post "Pick a format (any format".

From the usability point of view, the many different feed formats are a mess.

"Blog Usability: Too many RSS feeds":

on June 21, 2006 02:56 PM
# jim winstead said:

i've had feeds that have been dead for years, and still get requests. i tried 301'ing them. 404'ing them. 410'ing them. and even making them spew randomized entries that told people to unsubscribe. the requests just keep coming.

(but good idea to consolidate on a single format. just not sure why you'd pick rss over atom.)

on June 21, 2006 03:36 PM
# Jeremy Zawodny said:

Well, 95% of my readers were already happily consuming the RSS 2.0 feed, so that's what I'm standardizing on. I could probably swap in Atom, but don't know who or what that'd help.

If I'm missing something obvious, please enlighten me.

on June 21, 2006 03:44 PM
# Jeremy Zawodny said:

Thanks, Sam.

I'll go about doing some template tweaking.

on June 21, 2006 04:46 PM
# Robert Sayre said:

fwiw, I switched to Atom exclusively the day after the RFC was published, using escaped HTML content. Publishing Atom 1.0 w/ type="html" on atom:title and atom:content is (probably) more interoperable than RSS2.

You can add Firefox 2 to the list of programs that won't work with your feed, unless IE7 changes course (when there is no standard, follow MS :/ ).

on June 21, 2006 05:05 PM
# Jeremy Zawodny said:

Firefox 2 won't work because of what, exactly? No RSS support or *my* specific old version of hacked up RSS?

on June 21, 2006 05:07 PM
# Sam Ruby said:

Your specific feed.

Pretty much everybody supports RSS 1.0, RSS 2.0, and Atom 1.0 these days. When I redirected all my feeds to Atom, pretty much nobody noticed except Bloglines users, and there is good news on that front today. I'm sure that I could redirect my feeds tomorrow to RSS 1.0 or RSS 2.0 versions and see equal results.

There isn't an unambiguous definition on how to represent titles in RSS, but what I pointed you to is the best consensus I've seen to date, and what IE/FF/TBird faithfully implement.

Atom's approach is different: there is an unambiguous definition, so the consumers don't have to guess. Futhermore, *you* get to say how your specific feed is encoded. And you don't need to check back periodically to see if consensus has shifted.

on June 21, 2006 05:57 PM
# Robert Sayre said:

Sorry for the confusion, FF will of course support RSS in many flavors. The double-escaped titles that Sam mentioned won't look so hot, though (unless IE changes behavior, or another similarly large force is applied).

on June 21, 2006 06:14 PM
# ilker said:
on February 4, 2007 12:51 PM
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