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March 25, 2006

Subscribing to a Blog

Filed under Blogging

How do you keep up with a blog? Do you check it every day? Every week? When someone tells you to look at it?
It is no fun to check a blog only to find out it has no new content. If you keep checking a blog and you never see any new content, you will probably just stop checking.
There is a better way! Instead of wasting your time looking for new content on a blog, what if the new content would come to you! That is what is known as "subscribing to a blog."
Not every blog supports subscriptions, but most do. How do you know if a blog supports subscriptions? Look for an orange icon like this: . My website has one on the right side. This orange icon has become the industry standard for a blog subscription. The icon is from the Firefox web browser. Rather than creating its own icon, Microsoft has standardized on this icon as well for both the upcoming version of Internet Explorer (IE7) and Microsoft Office as of December 2005. The Opera browser will switch from a blue "RSS" button to the orange icon. It is good to see these competitors work together on this. This is too cool of a technology to get bogged down with confusion.
The industry standard orange icon is new, so you will likely run into many other variations until everybody moves to the new standard. They all mean the same thing, they just have a different look. Here are some of the ones I have run into...
It is good that we have a standard icon now. The same is hopefully true about what to call this technology. It appears that "webfeed" is going to be the standard name going forward. However, there are still many other names for a webfeed because there was no standard initially. Webfeeds are also known as:
  • RSS
  • RSS feed
  • RSS stream
  • RSS channel
  • Feed 
  • RSD (Really Simple Discovery)
  • RDF (Resource Description Framework)
  • RDF feed
  • Atom feed
  • Rich Site Summary (RSS 0.91)
  • RDF Site Summary (RSS 0.9 and 1.0)
  • Really Simple Syndication (RSS 2.0)
  • Syndication
So we now have a standard icon () and a standard name (webfeed), but what about the data itself? There are several data formats for webfeeds. One of the first was RSS 0.9, created in 1999 for use in the "My Netscape" web portal. As Netscape died, so did updates to RSS 0.9. A successor to RSS 0.9 arrived as RSS 2.0 in 2003. It addressed some issues in RSS 0.9, but it had problems of its own. One of the biggest issues is RSS 2.0 is frozen and cannot change. Rather than try to fix issues in the established formats, a new format called "Atom" was created to address all the issues in RSS 0.9 and RSS 2.0. Atom is an internet standard that is overseen by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF).
How do you read a subscription? There are a few ways. I use My Yahoo. Google and My MSN also have webfeed readers. Here is what my blog looks like from My Yahoo as a webfeed. 
If you look at the right side of my blog, I have added a few buttons for webfeeds to my blog. The first, with the orange icon, is the standard webfeed and can be used any where that supports webfeeds. The next few are convenience buttons that will automatically take the webfeed of my blog and add it to the respective readers. To learn how to make these buttons yourself, see this page. Yahoo also has a nice page on how to promote your blog with webfeeds.
If you haven't guessed it by now, I'm a huge fan of webfeeds. I look forward to the day when I can litter My Yahoo home page with webfeeds from all my family and friends. So if you don't have a blog...get one! And if you do have a blog, make sure it supports webfeeds!

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on March 25, 2006 2:16 PM.

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