Etiquette for RSS Feeds
The arguments continue to rage over
the ambiguities in the RSS specifications. But
the fact is: RSS is here to stay, and the current
defined RSS 2.0 specification is likely going
to be as good as it is going to get. Attempts
have been made to create "best practice" documents
and specification clarifications. We felt it would
be helpful to provide general guidelines for those
constructing an RSS 2.0 feed. In general, the
following are guidelines for constructing an RSS
feed. It is good to get into the habit of validating
the RSS feed, either with software, or with an
Here are some general guidelines
for creating RSS Feeds:
Include only one enclosure per item
for maximum compatibility. The RSS 2.0 specification
does not clearly state whether multiple enclosures
are allowed or not, but most RSS readers will
only support a single enclosure. Therefore, it
is best to conform to the readers, and only include
a single enclosure in each RSS feed item.
2. Date Formats
Date formats can be very tricky;
be sure that all dates are properly formatted.
Encoding is required for certain
characters. If you are using software to create
the feed, it should handle character encoding
While the specification is not explicit,
it is generally a good idea to not use HTML coding
within the Channel or Item titles. For maximum
feed compatibility, the only place you should
use HTML is in the RSS Feed Item Description.
GUID (Global Unique IDentifiers)
are not required. However, publishers are encouraged
to use a unique string in the GUID field. Many
RSS readers look for GUID changes to determine
if new items are available in an RSS feed.
If you are including an image with
the feed, the suggested image size is 88x31 (the
maximum allowed size is 144x400). If you are including
an image in the RSS feed's Item Description or
Enclosure fields, there are no size limitations,
but keep in mind that excessively large graphics
will negatively impact the amount of time it takes
to load the feed.
Some RSS readers and search engines
will display the favicon of the hosting domain
beside the listing for an RSS feed. In order for
your feed to stand out, be sure that you include
a favicon in the root directory of your website's
Use "absolute" URLs for images,
websites, and links, instead of "relative" URLs.
The intent of RSS is to syndicate content, so
the RSS feed may not always be local to the person
viewing the feed. As such, the full web path to
all images, websites, and links should be used.
In other words, do not use " ../imageurl.gif ",
but instead use the full URL " http://www.mydomain.com/imageurl.gif
" when linking to any content.
Use a meaningful title for the Channel
feed and RSS feed Items. Most RSS directories
and search engines use the words in the Channel
Title and Item Title to classify the RSS feeds.
10. Mime Types
If you are including a file in
the enclosure field of an RSS feed, be sure to
properly define the "file size" and the "mime
type" of the file enclosure. A list of proper
mime type formats can be found here - http://www.feedforall.com/mime-types.htm
Include RSS feed "auto-discovery"
code in your HTML page header. This will allow
certain browsers and RSS feed readers to automatically
know that an RSS feed is available for specific
Tool to Create AutoDiscovery Code
The number of items contained in
a feed is important. Establish a history and expand
the feed on a regular basis. Prune the RSS feed
if it becomes excessively long; this will help
make the RSS feed load faster.
About the Author:
Sharon Housley manages marketing for FeedForAll
software for creating, editing, publishing RSS
feeds and podcasts. In addition Sharon manages
marketing for RecordForAll http://www.recordforall.com
audio recording and editing software.