January 4, 2009 2:16 PM   Subscribe

When I add a feed to my reader, do I want RSS 1.0, RSS 2.0 or Atom? What's the practical difference?
posted by Yakuman to Computers & Internet (8 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Different flavors of the same food. You want to use the one your reader supports -- but most readers support them all. They all carry the same content, and are all XML formats. RSS2 has more fields than RSS1.. but other than that, RSS 2.0 and Atom are pretty close to the same feature set.
posted by SirStan at 2:33 PM on January 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

Avoid RSS 1.0 where possible.

If your reader supports both RSS 2.0 and Atom, then you should go for Atom, which is technically the superior format. (Though the differences are minor.)
posted by Mwongozi at 2:53 PM on January 4, 2009

"What's the practical difference?"

If you have to ask this question, the answer, for you, is that there isn't one.

All three can do different things, but when it comes to just tossing it in google reader and reading your blogs every day, it makes zero difference.
posted by toomuchpete at 3:16 PM on January 4, 2009

In general with technology or software related decisions, choose the newest version. Often there are no noticable features, but long-term support with be better with the newer version, and there may be bugs or problems fixed in the new version.
posted by blue_beetle at 3:17 PM on January 4, 2009

Properly implemented, the Atom version is most likely to have the most and best marked up content. Practically speaking all three probably will work the same except in weird corner cases.

Also: shame on every single web publisher who offers a choice like this to end users. How the hell are ordinary people supposed to decide?
posted by Nelson at 3:28 PM on January 4, 2009

Also: shame on every single web publisher who offers a choice like this to end users. How the hell are ordinary people supposed to decide?

It's probably being offered by the auto-detector. Firefox always asks me which feed I want to subscribe to. There's not really an easy way in any of the specs to say "Hey, use this feed unless the user is really interested", primarily because many sites and blogs now have feeds for a half-dozen different things: categories, tags, comments, etc, etc, etc.

Problem is that doing that well is a pretty tricky interface problem which is mostly lost on all but the most savvy producers. Most of the blog packages do this about as well as they can out of the box, but even that's pretty weak.

For the OP, FWIW: Given the choice, I always choose Atom.
posted by toomuchpete at 3:35 PM on January 4, 2009

Non-technical answer: I've noticed that some sites with multiple feeds will have one be the full post, and another a truncated version of the post (first 50 words or so). I think it's more a bug than a feature, though. If I come across a site with multiple feeds and the first one I try is abridged, sometimes I'll check the others. But I haven't kept track of which version (if any) is most likely to be shipping full posts.
posted by itesser at 3:40 PM on January 4, 2009

If you want to read more about why RSS is kind of a mess, Mark Pilgrim has an excellent article on the nine versions of RSS.

I too would second Atom; I personally would love the day when I would never have to make another RSS feed for anybody.
posted by shadytrees at 6:48 PM on January 4, 2009

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