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RSS vs Atom for Blog Syndication
Ed Kohler

I'm looking for some help understanding the benefits of both RSS and Atom from a blog publishing perspective.

From what I can tell, there is little difference between the two syndication formats when it comes to syndicating text or text with images. And most blogging platforms generate feeds in both popular formats, so any compatibility issues at the reader level can largely be overcome by picking the most compatible feed for the reader. This also is hardly an issue with popular RSS readers.

But what if you were in a position where you were forced to choose between the two formats? Or, if you had time to build one format with plans to come back and support the other format at a later date. Who would win out in that decision?

As far as I can tell, the answer would be RSS 2.0 today since it appears to offer more flexibility for publishers for things like podcasting.

While Atom appears to offer a lot of capabilities unrelated to publishing a feed for syndication, from a blog publisher's perspective, I don't see the benefits.

Educate me.


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1. Posted by: Phil Hollows on September 26, 2007 9:59 AM:

Hi Ed:

FWIW FeedBlitz (my company) takes all the common formats, but given a choice we prefer Atom. The reason is that Atom's date tags (created, published, updated) give much greater visibility into the article's history, whereas RSS 2.0 just has one as standard - the publication date. That date changes with every edit, which can cause problems.

So given that everything else is more or less equal, Atom (for us) wins because it has more information in it which, in turn, enables servicesa like FeedBlitz (and other users) to make better decisions about the content and how to interpret it.


2. Posted by: Ed Kohler on September 26, 2007 12:48 PM:

Thanks Phil. That makes sense.

3. Posted by: Scooter on September 27, 2007 8:09 AM:

Chris Sells had an amusing post about how people use ATOM because they don't want to have to deal with Dave Winer. Dave answers him directly - and there are a bunch of links in the comments area about RSS v. Atom. The post is now three years old, so it's an old debate.

4. Posted by: Peter Fleck on September 27, 2007 10:04 PM:

From Wikipedia:

The development of Atom was motivated by the existence of many incompatible versions of the RSS syndication format, all of which had shortcomings, and the poor interoperability [1] of XML-RPC-based publishing protocols. The Atom syndication format was published as an IETF "proposed standard" in RFC 4287. The Atom Publishing Protocol is still in draft form.

Here's a comparison page.

Your preview doesn't seem to work. I get an error.

And check Tim Bray's blog Ongoing. He was on the team that wrote the Atom protocol.

5. Posted by: Teresa Boardman on September 30, 2007 8:15 AM:

Ah, one of the great mysteries of our time. I thought I was the only one that doesn't get is. I go with RSS 2.0, because it sounds the most impressive.

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