For various reasons we are required to add feeds to our product. The main reason is to be able to say to potential buyers that "yes, we have feeds". We do not actually expect the feature to be used that much. Ideally we would like to provide both RSS and Atom feeds. However, at the moment we are severely pressed for time and are forced to select just one of these. Should we use Atom or RSS? Feature-wise we are fine with either, so I am only looking for information about the popularity and support for the various formats. Are there many feed readers out there without Atom support?

The reason we only want to implement one format is not related to generating the actual feeds. That in itself will not be very time consuming. It is more of a UI problem. If we implement both Atom and RSS, we need to present the user with a UI where he/she can select between the different formats. For usability purposes we would also need help texts, tooltips etc. to make sure that the user can understand the different options. And since our product is localized into multiple languages all of the above would need to be translated, and someone has to pay for that. It all adds up and becomes a lot more work. If we settle on a single format we only need one button with a tooltip pointing to an .aspx with the feed. Besides, it is not my decision anyway. :) Someone above me has already decided that this functionality will be implemented for this release.


6 Answers 6


If you do not expect the feature to be used it doesn't matter.

RSS has broader support but Atom is easier to implement, so I would pick that.

Of course if you had an actual requirement you could check what readers your customers were using. But as long as it is "checkbox-ware" it really doesn't matter.

  • +1 for ease of implementation. I did not know that. Mar 14, 2011 at 12:26

If you are pushed for time and need to choose one then I'd just use RSS as it has widespread support and many more people have heard of, and understand, the term "RSS" than "Atom".

The Atom format may be better but is it really worth stressing about given your time constraint?

  • 1
    My plan until now has been to not actually expose the users to the terms "RSS" or "Atom". I was going to call the button "Subscription Feed" or "Subscribe" or something like that. That way the users would not have to worry about what RSS or Atom is or the differences between the formats. But your question got me thinking that maybe I am wrong. Maybe the term "RSS" is clearer than "Subscribe". After all, "Subscribe" could easily be interpreted as "Send me e-mails", or whatever. Mar 14, 2011 at 12:25

Why the hassle?

The actuall process of encoding the feeds can be done by hand within hours, with a library within minutes. And you could even translate one into another using XSLT without signifficant semantic loss.

The final format should be transparent to the rest of your app. Devise a model of a feed message, provide an API for the rest of your app to publish feeds with and distribute the information from there (converting it to RSS, Atom, storing it in some DB or whatever makes you happy).


If you're in that much of a hurry, I'd use a library like the PHP Universal Feed Generator. That'll get you going quickly and you can switch between RSS and Atom by changing a single line of code.


My experience is that Atom is much simpler (yes, simpler than 'Really Simple Syndication'). Based on my experience I'd go with Atom for that reason.

If you don't care which you go with, and don't expect it to be used, then Atom should be your choice.


Would it really be that hard and time consuming to simply add both? RSS and Atom are very similar, it could be as easy as having 2 different (output) views.

  • I have edited my question, it should be clearer now. Mar 14, 2011 at 16:57

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.