This is the FAQ for Atom users, to eventually appear on the Atom website. It is not the FAQ for the Atom spec, the FAQ for Atom development (DeveloperFaq), the FAQ for Atom deployment (ServerFaq), etc.
What is Atom?
A way to get timely, continuously updated information from Web sites. Atom lets any website, including news sites, personal sites, and companies, make a "news feed" containing headlines and content available to everyone. You can read the content published by these sites in Atom format using an Atom news reader (see next question).
The most common uses for Atom are:
Notification of new Weblog entries
Continously updated content such as stock information
Frequently updated messages, for example "word of the day".
However many sites may have more creative uses for Atom than are listed here.
How do I use Atom?
You need a program capable of reading Atom news feeds. These programs generally fall into two categories:
External programs that run on your desktop. There are many different programs for you to choose from, free and commercial, on different operating systems. Examples are NewsGator (on Windows), NetNewsWire (on Mac), and X (on Linux).
Web sites that display the content of Atom feeds for you, possibly "aggregating" the feeds to look like one diverse news feed.
Once you have an Atom news reader, you subscribe to the feeds published by your favorite Web sites, and the news in those feeds shows up in the reader.
What is a feed?
A continously updated stream of news from a Web site. A Web site provides one or more feeds that you subscribe to and read in your Atom news reader.
How do I implement an Atom feed on my Web site?
See the ServerFaq for information on how to provide a feed.
[MattChaput] At what point do we introduce the concept of two-way communication using Atom (ie posting to your weblog)? It complicates the simple-but-inaccurate "Atom = stream of news headlines" thing.
[AsbjornUlsberg] That lies within and under tha AtomApi and will not interfere with what the users think Atom is. Developers should, however, know the difference between the AtomFormat and the AtomApi. AtomApi defines behavior, AtomFormat defines the data. Neither of these are of much interest to ordinary users.