OK. So how do you subscribe to my site? Or any other site that has an RSS feed? Why you just click on the little orange button with the white text that says XML. Obvious isn’t it? Well, actually, I don’t think it is. It may be obvious to those who maintain their own websites, blogs etc but I think for the vast majority of people, the “regular” users, it isn’t obvious at all.
Both Safari and Firefox can automatically detect if a site has an RSS feed available. They do this by checking for the
link element in the head of the HTML document with a
type attribute set to
application/rss+xml. As far as I am aware when the new version of Internet Explorer is released (whenever that will be) it will also natively support RSS but the current version doesn’t.
When Safari detects an RSS feed it displays a button next to the URL with white text on a blue background. When you click on the button it displays the RSS. I can then bookmark it to “subscribe” to the website. A similar process occurs with Firefox only the symbol it displays when it detects an RSS feed is located in the bottom far right of the screen. Not exactly obvious. Click on the symbol and Firefox also gives me the option of bookmarking the feed. Great! What I would like to see is a one click subscription mechanism. When the browser detects an RSS feed it displays a “Subscribe to this site” button. I click on it. Done. No additional step(s) needed. I would guess that most users don’t care, or even want to know that it’s RSS underneath. All they want to do is subscribe to the website.
I use Safari most of the time. I have a bookmark folder on my toolbar that contains links to all the RSS feeds of the sites I read. Safari periodically checks these feeds and informs me when new content is available by displaying the number of new posts next to the folder. I had to set this up myself. Why can’t it be done automatically?
But there are news aggregators out there that do this or plugins available for Internet Explorer I hear you cry. Not good enough. I don’t want to have to install yet another application to read a bunch of feeds. If it’s on the web I want to use my browser. Period. Why burden users with having to install yet more software.
Over the last few years RSS has gained in popularity and is becoming more mainstream. There is even a venture capital firm, RSS Investors, that specifically funds RSS related projects. Let’s make it even more popular by providing sensible means of creating and managing subscriptions to websites.