Standardizing the Feed Icon

3 minute read

A big ado was made when the Microsoft Windows Internet Explorer team announced they would use Firefox’s feed icon. I guess it’s better than yet another icon, but I never what the problem was with the original XML icon, etc. was in the first place. Mozilla seemed to create the icon because “RSS” wasn’t considered kosher considering the number of Atom feeds out there.

As an aside, what’s even more maddening is that Safari still opts for Atom feeds over RSS feeds despite ordering in the source when one clicks the RSS subscribe button. Not only is that an inconvenience for webmasters, but it confuses the hell out of users.

I guess I can accept the new icon as the de facto standard. Firefox and IE are the two big players. I do have to find some irony here though. Firefox was pushed so heavily because it was a minority browser and helped push community established web standards into the published web. Now that it’s a major player with IE, the two of them have essentially ganged up to force their picked icon as the standard for xml based feeds. I missed the community involvement here. But I digress.

I can even try to overlook the fact that there is still a very real disconnect between rss and atom feeds and this icon. Typical non-geek users that don’t already know what the icon means aren’t going to know what it means. How is the average user supposed to identify this icon with this rss feed you speak of? They won’t.

You’re getting impatient. I can feel it. What’s the point? This website is infuriating. Basically, some dude decided to try to use the current situation to derive some profit and attention to his own web designs. If we take a look at the readme that’s on the site, we have four authoritative sources.

The last is of course itself. That’s authority by recursion. The third is a post by the author on his blog. The very same post that spawned the “project”. That leaves two sources, Microsoft’s announced adoption of the icon and a blog post by Asa Dotzler of Mozilla. Again, I’m missing the community involvement.

Now that we’ve all supposedly decided this is to be the standard, we come to this part of the site:


Not a fan of orange? Download the package and customize the icon to your liking. We believe that as a symbol, the feed icon is recognizable enough that it doesn’t need to be restricted to one colour.

Who is we? What happened to a standard and trying get the userbase to recognize the one icon? Won’t users wonder if maybe the different color means different content? Maybe green means podcast? Meh.

In all fairness, I do believe that Matt is serving a very good purpose. He is supplying a high quality, scalable version of the icon. That’s certainly a great service to those that want to support the icon as the standard. Talking in the first person plural should be reserved for royalty. (I’ll try to reserve comments about the PayPal Donation button because bandwidth is expensive.)

However, there is one irony too delicious to ignore. The site uses a mailing list for notifications. If the irony doesn’t jump out right away, give it a moment. Okay, in case you missed it, a site promoting a new icon standard for XML based syndication feeds doesn’t itself offer an XML feed for notifications, opting instead to syndicate via email. I think that says it all.

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