RSS Advisory Board

Should Feed Readers Count Unread Items?

Feedly dialog to confirm marking all feed items as read

Brent Simmons, the developer of the NetNewsWire RSS reader, is questioning his decision to put an unread count next to each feed, reasoning that it encourages people to be too obsessive about reading every item:

Instead of a dozen bookmarks, people had a hundred feeds. Or two hundred. Or two thousand.

And there was a tyranny behind keeping track of unread items and showing an unread count. People reacted in different ways, but many people felt like they always had to go through everything.

Including me. To this day.

I did not know this was going to happen. That was not the idea: it was a side effect of reasonable (at the time) choices.

I like seeing these counts on feeds where I need to read all items that are posted, but that's only a small percentage of the 100-120 feeds I follow. It would be nice to turn that off for others I read more casually.

Feedly presents unread counts on each feed and folder of feeds. There's a Mark As Read button to clear a count, but when you click it, the confirmation dialog acts like it's an extremely consequential decision: "Are you sure you want to mark this entire source as read? This operation cannot be undone."

I've posed a question on the RSS-Public mailing list: Do you think feed readers should count unread items?

Yahoo Groups Dropped RSS Feed Support

The RSS feeds of the RSS-Public and RSS-Board mailing lists are no longer available. Yahoo Groups used to offer feeds for each of its public lists, but Yahoo dropped support last year. A member of the service's product team said the feature was retired in July 2013.

To read the lists and subscribe to receive them in email, visit the Yahoo Groups pages for RSS-Public and RSS-Board.

We may move the lists to Google Groups, which does offer RSS feeds for each group.

What Do You Use to Read RSS Feeds?

Cartoony graphic of man reading RSS as a paperIn 2007, the RSS Advisory Board published the RSS Best Practices Profile, our advice for how to produce RSS feeds that work best in the wide variety of feed readers, web browsers and other software that consumes feeds. The RSS specification is poorly written in several areas, leading to disagreement over the correct way to do things. We wanted to help programmers and web publishers avoid these hassles.

The programs tested as we drafted the profile were Bloglines, BottomFeeder 4.4, Feed Demon 2.5 (, Google Reader, Microsoft Internet Explorer 7, Mozilla Firefox 2.0 (2.0.9), My Yahoo, NewsGator Online and Opera 9.

Since then, Google Reader and NewsGator Online shut down, Bloglines moved to a new software platform and FeedDemon is up to version 4.5. Web browsers all have significant upgrades and Google Chrome has sprung into existence.

I thought it was time to look at whether all of the profile's advice is appropriate with current feed reading software. As the first step, I posed this question today on the RSS-Public mailing list:

What software do you currently use to read RSS feeds?

For years, I read feeds primarily with Bloglines. I moved to Google Reader and when it was killed (sigh), I switched to Feedly after a few months where I didn't read feeds at all. For podcasts, I use Apple iTunes.

RSS Board Moves to New Server

The RSS Advisory Board has moved its web site to a new server. If you have any problems using the site, please note them in the comments. Thanks.

Media RSS Moves to the RSS Advisory Board

The proposal for the RSS Advisory Board to become the publisher of the Media RSS namespace has passed 8-0 with members Rogers Cadenhead, Sterling "Chip" Camden, Simone Carletti, James Holderness, Jenny Levine, Randy Charles Morin, Ryan Parman and Jake Savin voting in favor.

The specification's permanent URL will be once we have finished proofreading the document. The namespace declaration will remain for as long as it is published to ensure that software using the namespace will continue to function properly.

The board also will be taking over management of the RSS-Media mailing list, where implementers of the namespace can get help and contribute feedback.

RSS News
If you export your WordPress blog, it is delivered to you as an RSS feed that holds all of the blog's entries, pages and comments. WordPress makes use of five namespaces and calls the format WordPress eXtended RSS (WXR). I'm working on a Java application that converts a WXR file into a set of static HTML pages.
This week, Steve Rubel has written a couple of blog posts that are required reading for everybody who wants to help the board advance RSS.

First he writes RSS Adoption at 11% and it May Be Peaking.

Then he writes I've Seen the Future of News, It's the Newsfeed.

Microsoft has announced that the user agent string for the next version of the RSS Platform will be "Windows-RSS-Platform/2.0 (MSIE 8.0; Windows NT 6.0)".

The platform will be used by Internet Explorer 8 to request the user's subscribed RSS feeds.

The web-based RSS reader Bloglines now offers a mobile version of its service optimized for Apple iPhone. You can read full-text feeds, search for feeds and specific text across all feeds, and turn on Skweezer, a service that makes web pages more readable on mobile devices.

The draft of the RSS Profile has been updated with a new recommendation for how aggregators should implement the TTL element.