It’s just data

<plaintext>

Tim Bray’s statistics show a small but growing number of people prefer his Atom feed over his RSS 2.0 feed.

As my weblog supports more feed formats, my data is a bit more spread out.  About 45% are subscribed to my RSS 0.91 feed, 10% to my RSS 1.0 feed, and the remainder are pretty evenly split between RSS 2.0 and Atom 1.0.  The other feed formats get trace amounts.

This leads me to wonder how many aggregators actually support RSS 0.91 correctly, as that is the one feed format that is unambiguously <plaintext> from top to bottom.

Last year, I removed all of my redundant comment feeds.  Perhaps it is time to weed out my primary feeds too.


I think you might be making some assumptions about people’s sophistication.  I think people grab the first RSSish link that works.  Most people don’t even begin to understand the difference between the formats.

Posted by Tankko at

The fact that you make 10 feeds available, all of which have the same content, does make for confusion. I appreciate that offering an RSS 3.0 feed may be making a political statement, but it’s not exactly useful to many people. Same goes for CDF which is essentially dead.

The best advice I’ve heard is to choose one feed format and stick to it. I personally chose Atom 1.0 because it’s the only one that is a firm standard, and I’ve had no complaints about it not working.

Posted by Neil T. at

Turns out I’m reading the rss2 feed via Bloglines ... and you broke it this morning. :)

It began with .... (dropped the < before one P tag to avoid interpretation by your weblog comment form) :

</a></h3> p><table cellspacing=0 cellpadding=0 width="100%"><tr><td class="article">45% are subscribed to my RSS 0.91 feed.&nbsp; This leads me to wonder how many aggregators actually support RSS 0.91 correctly, as that is the one feed format that is <a href="http://my.netscape.com/publish/formats/rss-spec-0.91.html" target=_top class=blines3 title="Link outside of this blog"> unambiguously</a> &lt;plaintext&gt; from top to bottom.

... and munches the remainder of the Bloglines page (all the HTML markup is visible/uninterpreted).

Posted by Preston L. Bannister at

Wow.  Now that entry totally broke Bloglines.  Both RSS2 and Atom.  I gathered enough from the tag soup I saw to read “RSS 0.91” and figured I’d subscribed to that version on accident.  Guess not. :-)  I did, however, make the switch from RSS 2.0 to Atom.  I usually prefer Atom, but I’m also have been known to click the first link Bloglines presents when it shows the myriad feed links found through auto-discovery.  It’s just simpler sometimes.

Posted by Tim at

As Tim just noted, it is not just the .rss2 feed that broke.  I switched the the .atom feed with similar results.

First bit of visible/uninterpreted HTML begins at a different point (again dropping the < before P to avoid interpretation):

</a></h3> p><table cellspacing=0 cellpadding=0 width="100%"><tr><td class="article"><div xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml"> p>Tim Bray&#8217;s<a href="http://www.tbray.org/ongoing/When/200x/2004/12/12/-big/Feeds.png" target=_top class=blines3 title="Link outside of this blog">statistics</a>show a small but growing number of people prefer his Atom feed over his RSS 2.0 feed.

Posted by Preston L. Bannister at

Yeah Bloglines has this bug we know about for some time now... [link]

Posted by Anne van Kesteren at

Hah, apparently I was subscribed to the .91 feed as well. This PLAINTEXT thingy broke the display of the description (but not the title) in Opera 9. AFAIK, feed aggregators don’t always believe that users will abstain from using markup in their descriptions, whatever the spec says.

The Atom feed work perfectly fine. I think I’ll switch permanently...

Posted by Rijk at

Grrr, it broke Rojo too.  Time to unsub from the 0.91 feed!

Posted by Mark Baker at

This leads me to wonder how many aggregators actually support
RSS 0.91 correctly ...

This comment demonstrates why I read Intertwingly. You’re like Kurtz in Apocalypse Now, heading further upriver even though you know in that direction lies madness.

Posted by Rogers Cadenhead at

Like Captain Willard, rather.

And no, nobody needs to finish the characterization.

Posted by Phil Ringnalda at

Sam Destroys the Internets

Check out Sam Ruby’s latest... but only in a browser. His use of <plaintext>, which turns out to be an obsolete HTML tag (I’d never seen it, and I’ve been doing this shit since 1994), has exploded Bloglines (no biggie, Bloglines is basically unmaintained...

Excerpt from ongoing at

Moral: sanitize HTML by white-listing.

Posted by Lenny at

I had no problem reading your atom feed in FeedDemon 2.0.0.20 Final release.  Also newsgator seems to display the plaintext entry correctly as well.

Posted by HarryC at

Is bloglines really non-maintained - as Tim Bray suggests?

Posted by Chris Stiles at

Bloglines is maintained.

Posted by Paul Querna at

you make my little homebrewed aggregator a sad panda.

Posted by meh at

Bloglines maintained?  I haven’t seen a bug report get addressed in months.  Mommas, don’t let your Web startups grow up to be bought by Barry Diller.

Posted by Tim Bray at

Bloglines is maintained.

So, other than breaking our own feeds and making lots of noise, what can we do to report bugs like this?

Or this?

Or even this?

Or, God forbid, this?

Posted by Mark at

In Google Reader, the article title is blank but “<plaintext>” in the body shows up just fine.

Posted by Seth Gordon at

The PLAINTEXT Virus!

Wow, I just read via Tim that Sam Ruby just killed a bunch of aggregators by using <PLAINTEXT> in his post this morning. How can I not resist putting it into my feed as well? In case you’re not familiar with it (I haven’t seen it...

Excerpt from Russell Beattie Notebook at

Sam, your link to Tim’s graph returns a forbidden error (assumedly it’s checking the referer). It may appear to work if you had previously viewed the graph from his site and it was saved in your cache, but for a first time viewer it’s going to complain.

As for RSS 0.91 support in aggregators, every client that I have tested (of which there are 15) interpreted descriptions as HTML. As for titles, about 80% interpret them as HTML, but there’s some variation depending on what kind of markup you’re using (I suspect this is more a case of buggy code than fancy heuristics, but I could be wrong).

I don’t think you’re going to convince many aggregators that they’re doing the wrong thing though. And while the RSS 0.91 spec may have been clear, it could be argued that RSS 2.0 made it ambiguous the minute it allowed HTML in descriptions while claiming compatibility with RSS 0.91.

Posted by James Holderness at

I’m in a good news/bad news situation. The entry didn’t break JournURL’s display like it did Bloglines and Newzcrawler, but there was silent data-loss as the tag was stripped rather than escaped.

Fixed now... thanks for pointing this out, Sam.

Posted by Roger Benningfield at

hi sam,

  Once I use a feed URL, I usually don’t change it — especially now since OPML has come and I can export/import from various readers (not all readers are smart as of now but I’m sure that will change)

  Is there a way you can inform your old RSS version readers that they’re using an OLD feed standard ? Maybe, you could generate a small header message with a link to the new feed (ATOM) ?

BR,
~A

Posted by anjan bacchu at

your link to Tim’s graph returns a forbidden error

OK, I’ve changed to link to Tim’s piece that includes the graph.

it could be argued that RSS 2.0 made it ambiguous the minute it allowed HTML in descriptions while claiming compatibility with RSS 0.91.

To my knowledge, the only compatibility claims that RSS 2.0 made were that all RSS 0.91 feeds were valid RSS 2.0 feeds (modulo the version attribute on the rss attribute).  Of course, the present RSS 2.0 skipHours element is only compatible with Netscape’s 0.91, and RSS 2.0’s textInput is only compatible with UserLand’s 0.91.

Posted by Sam Ruby at

Ruby’s bug broke my reader. I found a work-around - I unsubscribed. Shortly thereafter that Beattie’s feed also broke my reader, the same fix worked . HTH.

Posted by Hourney Fillamen at

Great!  Before you know it, you’ll narrow your vision enough that you’ll never be exposed to anyone who disagrees with you or discusses facts that you find uncomfortable.  Behold the power of RSS!

Posted by Mark at

(BTW, if this post broke your reader, then your reader is broken.  You should contact your vendor for a fix.  Unless your reader is Bloglines, in which case... I don’t know.  Wave your arms and gesticulate wildly, I guess.)

Posted by Mark at

if this post broke your reader, then your reader is broken

Bloglines now strips <plaintext>.  As near as I can tell, none of the other problems have been fixed.

Posted by Sam Ruby at

When I picked up my car at the service center, I noticed a 15 inch scratch on the front driver side corner panel and driver door. Since plaintext broke Bloglines among other things around the same time, I suspect it’s also the cause of the scratch on my car. Please email me your insurance information, so I can process my claim. Thanks! :-)

Posted by Randy Charles Morin at

Protocols, Interfaces 'n' Stuff

Tim Bray has a must-read lessons-learned/looking forward sort of post on Atom. How’s this for a statistic: RFC 4287 took 17,944 email messages. Naturally I disagree with some of Tim’s points. Notably - “ RSS is Good Enough ” - well ok dude, so why...

Excerpt from Planet RDF at

Sam Ruby: <plaintext>

[link]...

Excerpt from del.icio.us/mac at

To my knowledge, the only compatibility claims that RSS 2.0 made were that all RSS 0.91 feeds were valid RSS 2.0 feeds (modulo the version attribute on the rss attribute).

Ok, look at it this way. Say you wanted to include a description in an RSS 0.91 feed like this:

“An HTML anchor starts with <a”

RSS 0.91 descriptions are supposed to be plain text so no escaping is needed for the less than sign (other than the XML escaping obviously). Run it through the feedvalidator and you’ll get a happy little “RSS Valid” icon.

Now try changing the version number from 0.91 to 2.0 and see what happens. The feedvalidator will report “Invalid HTML: EOF in middle of construct”. Only a warning, mind you, but the reality of the situation is that the feed is broken. No RSS 2.0 aggregator is going to handle it correctly.

If the RSS 2.0 spec is correct in claiming that a version 0.91 feed is also a valid 2.0 feed, then this sort of thing shouldn’t be a problem. Clearly it is as problem, hence the confusion.

Posted by James Holderness at

“An HTML anchor starts with <a”

Oh, you mean like this?  Yeah, that changed between Userland RSS 0.91 and RSS 0.92.

Posted by Mark at

That which we call a platypus / By any other word would smell as sweet

Sam found a problem with title handling in web-based aggregators... surprise! On the other hand, I’m sure many aggregator authors...... [more]

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Plaintext

Philippe Janvier : Plaintext - “If this post broke your reader, then your reader is broken.”. Apparemment Bloglines n’aime pas non plus. Tags : agregateurs syndication html...

Excerpt from HotLinks - Level 1 at

I didn’t realize that Tim offered more than one kind of feed.  I was previously subscribed to ongoing.atom, but switched to ongoing.rss after seeing this post.  The Atom feed doesn’t have pictures, and it doesn’t have the “Read More” link that takes you to the actual post.  (I’m using Safari, BTW.)

Posted by Jon W. at

Jon W.:

The Atom feed doesn’t have pictures, and it doesn’t have the “Read More” link that takes you to the actual post.

It does have pictures, but it uses xml:base to shorten their URIs, which Safari evidently does not support after all. (It would be nice if someone could fill in the Safari rows in those tables.)

Also, the Atom feed is full-text, so you don’t need a “Read more” link. In case you want to bring up the article on Tim’s site, you can just go to the permalink. (Then again, it too relies on xml:base, so Safari may be falling flat on its face with that one too.) But for those who only want a summaries, the feed does have atom:summary elements, which, if used, should be adequately distinguished from atom:content by the aggregator – f.ex. by offering such a “Read more” link. This is the right distribution of responsibilities; the presence and presentation of such a link should not depend on the whims/tastes of the feed publisher.

In other words, these are bugs and shortcomings of Safari, not of Tim’s Atom feed.

Posted by Aristotle Pagaltzis at

The Atom feed doesn’t have pictures

Actually, it does.  But due to Tim’s liberal use of xml:base, many aggregators don’t know how to get to them.

Posted by Kevin H at

聽說不少 aggregator 碰到 #x3cplaintext#x3e 就會死翹翹,來試試看。 Update: 結果第一個死的就是我的 blog .. 真是耍笨了 XD Update: Oops,想到我的 feed 有給 feedburner 燒過,應該是沒問題吧 ? Update: 先拿掉免得死傷慘重,相關討論可以參考這篇及這篇的 comment。...

Excerpt from 二三街角 at

Plaintext Mashup

Sam’s prank continues to hork the Web (scroll down)....... [more]

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Bloglines Is Unmaintained

I subscribe to both Sam Ruby’s and Tim Bray’s Atom feeds, and was an amused spectator this morning when Sam broke Bloglines (which I use a lot) and other feed readers by making the title of an entry “<plaintext>”. (Without......

Excerpt from cygweb at

Wise Men Once Say

Mark Pilgrim: "Great! Before you know it, you’ll narrow your vision enough that you’ll never be exposed to anyone who......

Excerpt from franklinmint.fm at

<comment>

First, I verified that the  RSS 0.91 spec is more honored in the breach than the observance.  Then  I switched exclusively to Atom 1.0. Time to  destroy the internets again.  But only for those Aggregators with an 'X" in column four in this table.  ... [more]

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