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Syndication Format

October 09, 2003

I realize I’m opening up a can of worms here, but I honestly want a solid answer. I’m hoping everyone can put aside their differences and help constructively. Flames and off-topic comments will be deleted liberally. Consider this a social experiment. I can’t believe I have to write all this.

The issue: due to various constraints which I will not discuss, if I had to choose just one syndication format to publish with today, which should I choose? Consider aggregator support, ease of human readibility, and ease of implementation. I want Really Simple Syndication, not Rich Site Summary.

Choices are RSS 0.91, 1.0, and 2.0. Discuss.


Reader Comments

Eric says:
October 09, 04h

Why do you have to choose? Aren’t these all XML-based formats? Just use XSL to make all three from a common document (or one of the three if it has all the data the other two need).

Elaine says:
October 09, 04h

I’d say either 1.0 or 2.0, and flip a coin to pick. It looks to me like both of those specs have (a) possibilities for expansion, (b) reader support, and (c) forward motion in terms of “community” support.

(Personally, I find the differences both confusing and arcane, and while I totally grok the social issues, I can’t help by being annoyed by them.)

As for ease of implementation…I’ve always used built-in tools to generate RSS, so I can’t speak to that. Although I am getting ready to write some XSLT to generate RSS out of an XML data source, so I might have more to say in a week or two!

Is this something where you’ll have to either hand-generate, or write a script to generate, the feed?

Eric says:
October 09, 04h

Sorry, I’ve had a few beers and I didn’t reread my post. Maybe you don’t know XSL (I don’t blame you, it can be very frustrating), so let me rephrase:

Why do you have to choose? Arenít these all XML-based formats? Just ask a benevolent soul to write XSL that can make all three from a common document (or one of the three if it has all the data the other two need).

[deleted - DS]

Sean says:
October 09, 04h

I can’t see that you could make a case for 1.0 with those conditions. It’s got other benefits, and I find its specification easier to follow, but it’s not easy for humans to read (mainly thanks to namespaces and rdf:about attributes).

I would go for 0.91. Unless you need extensions or the extra RSS 2.0 elements–and as you want it to be ‘really simple,’ I’m guessing you don’t–there’s no reason not to. Of course, valid 0.91 is also valid 2.0, so it’s easy to ‘upgrade’ if you need to.

Dave S. says:
October 09, 04h

Elaine - a script will probably be written, but it will have to be written by hand. Chicken and egg, so to speak. I believe the current setup generates 0.91.

Eric - XSL is probably something to look into for the future, but I’m thinking more quick and dirty here.

Sean - more or less where my thoughts lay right now. 0.91 is pretty universal, right?

Adam Rice says:
October 09, 05h

RSS 2.0. It’s pretty lightweight but makes more bells and whistles available than 0.91.

Until Atom is finalized, of course.

jacob says:
October 09, 05h

Another vote for RSS 2.0. RSS 2.0 is backwards-compatible with RSS 0.91, so readers that understand 2.0 get the bells and whistles, while readers that only understand 0.91 should simply ignore them.

Dave S. says:
October 09, 05h

If I don’t need bells & whistles? Will 0.91 suffice? Or put differently, is there any valid reason not to use it right now?

Sean says:
October 09, 05h

As far as I can tell it’s not officially deprecated, probably because it’s still very useful.

vlad says:
October 09, 05h

rss 2.0. strikes the best balance between forward thinking and backwards compatibility, imo.

October 09, 05h

I personally like RSS2.0 but respect RSS1.0 because its RDF. But as someone already mentioned it doesnt really matter because one xsl can transform one into another and back again.

Yep, RSS 1.0 is my choice… The more semantic meaning the better. It would be trivial to add more meta to rdf.

October 09, 05h

“Why do you have to choose? Arenít these all XML-based formats? Just use XSL to make all three from a common document (or one of the three if it has all the data the other two need)”

to extend this idea further…isn’t XHTML an XML-based format ? Just use XSLT to generate the XHTML from the RSS, or the RSS 1.0 and the XHTML from an RSS 2.0 file, or…etc etc. heck, you can even give users the choice of what they want, and generate it on the fly…

XSLT is indeed your friend, and now that you’re using PHP it’s actually straightforward enough to use http://uk.php.net/manual/en/ref.xslt.php

Dave S. says:
October 09, 06h

‘Ease of implementation’ is a big reason against XSLT. Learning curves do not a quick setup make. That it’s for this server, implemented by me, is also a wrong assumption in this case.

I want to abstract this as far as I can and make a decision without a specific implementation path. I just need an answer. Right now I’m leaning toward 0.91 since I don’t think it will require any change, and it seems that it’s still a good (or at least, valid) choice.

Conan says:
October 09, 06h

[deleted - DS]

pete says:
October 09, 06h

I too will say RSS 2.0, it’s pretty simple if you avoid unneccessary extensions. If you’re comfortable writing valid HTML by hand, you should have no problem grokking RSS 2.0.

Sam Ruby says:
October 09, 06h

While various content producers may be extremely partisan, every consumer I know of is totally agnostic. IMHO, the thing you should worry most about is using the elements correctly.

http://intertwingly.net/slides/2003/seybold/
http://feedvalidator.org/

17
Jimmy Cerra says:
October 09, 07h

<quote>ĎEase of implementationí is a big reason against XSLT. Learning curves do not a quick setup make. That itís for this server, implemented by me, is also a wrong assumption in this case.</quote>

Assuming you don’t know XSLT…. XSLT is so _easy_ to learn!!!!! Pick up “XSLT Cookbook” to get a feel, pick up “XSLT” to learn it, then pick “XSLT Cookbook” back up to understand it (all books from O’Reilly)! With the help of (the free) XSLT Quick Reference from mulberrytech.com, I was making nice, quality stylesheets in less than a week. Someone as smart as you, Dave, should be able to pick it up in a day or less.

I don’t know PHP, but I hear its easy to use XSLT with it.

Dave S. says:
October 09, 07h

Thanks Sam, glad to have your answer. That clinches it for me. 0.91 it is.