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Standardize the RSS Feed Icon Saturday 2006-02-11

Classic IconsClassic Icons for RSS or Atom feeds has become commonplace and are represented in many different ways on web sites and blogs. Sometimes as a text link, but more often as an icon. To subscribe to a feed you click the icon or copy the URL behind the icon to your feed reader.

Firefox introduced what they call live bookmarks, which means that the browser discovers a link to an RSS feed on the page you are reading. The browser then presents a special icon in the address field, and you can add the URL to your bookmarks. When you hover over a live bookmark, the last few items is listed and you can go directly to the updated page or post.

Microsoft seems to have accepted the new icon as a standard for representing an RSS feed, and the discussion of a standardized symbol for syndication feeds is in full swing. Sitepoint in its ‘ RSS icon “standardized” ‘ argues that …

With this icon currently in Firefox and set to appear in Internet Explorer 7 next year, it will quickly become the standard user experience for feeds on the Web. Web designers would be well advised to begin using it …

The post is followed by a fairly long discussion laying out the pros and cons for the new button.
Some argue that this is just a fancy Firefox invention, merely indicating the presence of a RSS, RDF or Atom feed, and that it only symbolises a live bookmark.

Others are convinced that a standard button would simplify the subscription to feeds, certainly for people who don’t know what RSS means. Not everybody can tell the difference between RSS, RDF and Atom, and shouldn’t have to. Feed readers should be able to read the most common formats of feeds and it should be transparent to the user.

Another good argument for an icon without text is that it is truly international. There are different explanations of what “RSS” means. “Really Simple Syndication” or “Rich Site Summary”? Lately the term “RSS” has in many instances become synonymous with “feed” regardless of format. an internationally recognizable symbol would simplify the subscription to feeds regardless of what technique is used behind the scene.

I think it is time to leave the developer view on feeds, and make them accessible for all to consume. I’m certain that users will be able to subscribe to feeds just by clicking on a button in a web page. The browser will then have the feed reader built in, or will send the subscription to a default reader.

New Feed IconI support Matt Bretts campaign at Feed Icons for standardization of an icon for syndication feeds.
Apart from offering a beautiful site, he offers downloads of the icon in different sizes and image formats, such as GIF, JPEG, PNG, PSD, AI and SVG.

I recommend that you join in, download the all-in-one archive and start using this universal icon now.

If you need more arguments, you can also read a great debate at Bugzilla, some opinions at Digg, or the lamentation leading to Microsoft’s acceptance of the Firefox icon at Microsoft Team RSS Blog

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