RSS Windows Editors – First Impressions

Published in

The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning,
Vol 7, No 3 (2006),   ISSN: 1492-3831


An RSS feed is a list of topics made available from a webpage via a standard XML file format known as RSS, an abbreviation of either Really Simple Syndication or Rich Site Summary (Wikipedia, 2006). The end-user subscribes to their favorite Internet content site via RSS-aware software. Once subscribed, announcements with appropriate links are “pushed” from the publishing site whenever new material is added to that site (see Figure 1). This allows notification of new content of possible interest, fed with anonymity to subscribers, and reduces email clutter.


RSS Publishing – Mixed

Publishing RSS 2.0 feeds is a very simple process when using the PC freeware called RSSBuilder. However, there are problems in presentation of feeds depending on the reader being used.

Here is a list of observations:

  1. FireFox web browser can read RSS feeds without distortion.
  2. Internet Explorer 7 (IE7) can only read RSS feeds that have unique item titles.
  3. Thunderbird Email and RSS feed reader will only read feeds that have items with links. In addition, Thunderbird does not display the RSS tag <description></description>; rather the link becomes the dominant information.
  4. Outlook 2007 (O2007) Email and RSS feed reader will only show items in an RSS feed that have unique item titles and item links.
  5. Both Emailers – Outlook and Thunderbird – ignore the RSS tag <pubDate></pubDate> and only display the received date and time stamp. Thus RSS feeds are received at time they were uploaded to site rather than actual publication date (Emailers assume that pubDate = received time). This means that you have feed content that can be out of date/time synchronization. In example the item description and publication date may be yesterday but you receive the RSS feed today.

FireFox produces the best presentation without having to modify the feeds to accommodate the bizarre behaviors of IE7, Outlook2007, and Thunderbird. I recommend the free Sage Add-on to FireFox as a good RSS Feed reader. Given the inconsistencies between readers, publishing RSS feeds will require careful consideration of how to create a feed.

Based on current versions of software to view RSS feeds, uniqueness of item properties is the key to RSS feeds that can be viewed by all RSS feed readers. Normally the same title or permalink should not be a problem as the item is just another entry in the list. Unfortunately, competing applications do not seem to have fully embraced RSS 2.0, and these feed readers do not appear to understand the end user experience.

Software Versions:

Microsoft Internet Explorer 7 (7.0.5730.13)

Microsoft Outlook 2007 (12.0.6316.5000) SP1 MSO (12.0.6320.5000)

Mozilla Thunderbird (20080914)

Mozilla Firefox 3.0.3 (.NET CLR 3.5.30729)

Mozilla Firefox Add-on – Sage 1.4.2

RSS Builder 2.1.8