September 07, 2007

All about blog feeds (part 1)

This is the first in a short series of posts written to help you achieve a better understanding of your blog feeds, and how you can use them. In this first post, I'll outline the basics of blog feeds, the differences between Atom and RSS feeds and an explanation of the different feeds available from your Blogger blog.

What is a blog feed?

Your blog feed is a machine readable version of your blog posts and comments. Blogger publishes this XML file to allow further syndication of your blog; that is, readers are able to "subscribe" to your blog and receive updates via a feed reader each time you publish a post.

Your blog feeds are published in two formats: RSS and Atom, which I will explain in more detail further down the page. Take a look at this short video first, which explains RSS (the most commonly known format) in plain English, as this will give you a great understanding of what blog feeds are all about:

So what is the difference between Atom and RSS feeds?

In short, there is very little difference between these file types: both do essentially the same thing: they offer your blog posts and comments in a format that can be easily syndicated and read by feed readers.

There are numerous websites which explain the technical differences in detail, and offer precise comparisons. For the purpose of simplicity, I've outlined the main differences here:

  • RSS was the first feed format available. Atom came about because developers were dissatisfied with the imperfections of RSS and decided to create an alternative.
  • RSS has nine versions, while Atom, being a newer format, has relatively few.
  • Many believe that Atom is more flexible in adapting to change and new technologies. It is constructed to work across a wide variety of platforms and devices.
  • However, RSS is much more widely known and adopted by more bloggers and news sites to syndicate blog feeds!

It is rather difficult to say which format is better. Despite that Atom is more flexible, some feed readers are unable to read Atom.xml files. By default, Blogger publishes your blog feeds in Atom.xml format, though this can be changed as I will explain in the next installment.

What are the different feeds published from my blog?

There are basically four different feeds published from your blog. These are:

    Posts feeds - this is the feed for your most recent blog posts.
  • Comments - the most recent comments from the whole of your blog.
  • Per-post comments - the most recent comments made to a particular post.
  • Labels - posts or comments linked to a particular label in your blog.
All of these different feeds are also available in Atom (default) or RSS format. In the next few installments, I'll explain how you can provide links to these different feeds in your blog and allow readers to subscribe to them.

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