Blogs: Best syndication standard for a newsfeed?
May 2, 2006 9:38 AM   Subscribe

Blog syndication: What standard (RSS, Atom, etc.) is best for syndicating full blog post contents?

My blog has a simple RSS 0.91 feed with descriptions of blog entries. My system is hand-rolled - a PHP script rewrites the XML file with MySQL content for every new entry (I want to keep it this way and not use external feed services).

Now I want to publish the full contents of each entry to people's newsreaders, not just short descriptions. I'm stumped about what kind of feed to offer and what problems I might run into, though.

What standard should I use - RSS, Atom, both, other?
Are there any special character issues I should keep an eye out for? Can anyone recommend any resources online for more reading?
posted by cadge to Technology (7 answers total)
Either one would work, and if you use a templating system, it would be fairly trivial to produce both.

Atom is more tightly specified, which should make it easier to implement without ambiguities. You may be aware that Atom arose partly because of ambiguities in the RSS spec, and partly because of personal conflicts between some developers and RSS' main proponent, Dave Winer. So the choice has political overtones, silly as that might sound.

For more on Atom, check out Atom enabled.

RSS2 is the most recent flavor of RSS. Here is the spec on that.
posted by adamrice at 10:12 AM on May 2, 2006

Have you considered offering both? Here's a PHP class that does it all.
posted by scottreynen at 10:19 AM on May 2, 2006

RSS is more widely supported, even in its various incarnations. Atom is still in development. However, as adamrice says, Atom is a more specific specification.

I hand-roll RSS for one of my projects, mostly because it's pretty simple to generate. Given that you want to generate a blog feed, RSS is probably your best bet.

An alternative is to generate the feed in whatever format you end up choosing and syndicate through feedburner; they'll convert the feed to whatever format your reading public happen to support.
posted by lowlife at 10:32 AM on May 2, 2006

Still in development? Atom is 1.0.

That said, RSS 2.0 is probably the most widely available/used.
posted by tommorris at 10:37 AM on May 2, 2006

They are both basically supported by most, if not all, major feed reading programs. You really can use whichever one you like more.
posted by chunking express at 11:18 AM on May 2, 2006

I'll echo the above in saying that RSS is more widely supported but Atom is more tightly speced out in what you are allowed and supposed to do.

Whatever you do, be sure you use the Feed Validator to check your work. Since you are hand rolling things, be sure to come back every once in awhile to make sure that new posts with different markup doesn't break the syndication formats. That can be tricky, but the Feed Validator is pretty good at telling you what the problem is.
posted by mmascolino at 11:20 AM on May 2, 2006

(declaration of interest: I was a fairly major contributor to the Atom spec)

Atom is better for full content because (among other things) it has a clearly defined way of setting a base URI for relative URIs so that images and internal links work correctly. With RSS you have to use absolute URLs for everything.

RSS has very little going for it other than a slightly larger installed based.

Character encoding issues are part of the XML layer so in theory are the same whether you use Atom or RSS.
posted by cillit bang at 1:35 PM on May 2, 2006

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