mnot’s blog

Design depends largely on constraints.” — Charles Eames

Wednesday, 25 January 2006


Little Orange “feed” Buttons

About two years ago, I got a little grouchy about those little orange XML buttons, and exhorted people to label them properly with RSS.

Then came along a little thing called Atom, and “RSS” doesn’t necessarily cover it. Besides which, a TLA isn’t necessarily the most user-friendly way to foist a new Web technology onto people.

Rather than confronting people with a miniature forest of icons and badges for different formats, I’ll be gracefully transitioning to Atom by first changing the icons to feed, and eventually pointing them at the Atom feeds instead of their RSS counterparts. Not that the RSS will disappear, for the foreseeable future.

With any luck, nobody will notice. That’s the way these things are supposed to work, anyway.


Edward O'Connor said:

Wednesday, January 25 2006 at 9:08 AM

Aristotle Pagaltzis said:

How about an icon + link? Much nicer, in my opinion, than a bulky orange blob.

Wednesday, January 25 2006 at 9:56 AM

Aristotle Pagaltzis said:

Heh. That’s much like mine at

Thursday, January 26 2006 at 4:27 AM

Dave Lemen said:

What Aristotle said. You can have both. See

Thursday, January 26 2006 at 6:10 AM

Dave Lemen said:

What Aristotle said. You can have both. See

Thursday, January 26 2006 at 6:11 AM

Aristotle Pagaltzis said:

I picked “Subscribe” rather than “Feed” (or “Newsfeed”, as I used to have) with some reluctance for the same reason. However, “Subscribe” is easily understood by anyone, even those who don’t know the first thing about feeds and aggregators and all that stuff, which is most people. “Feed” is not self-explanatory. (“Syndication” or “RSS” or “Atom” or “XML” or any number of other terms are even worse.)

Maybe in a few years we won’t be having this discussion anymore and “feed” will be commonly understood the way “homepage” is now, but for the time being, I’d stick with “Subscribe” as the label.

Friday, January 27 2006 at 7:03 AM

Dave Lemen said:

Our decision to go with the word “Subscribe” was somewhat inspired by Tim Bray’s “orange, but unhappy” reaction to the Firefox feed icon: “…if a page has a feed, there should be a standard button somewhere in the browser, one click and you’re subscribed, and on that button should be the word ‘Subscribe’ in your native language.”

Makes sense to me. It’s a good icon and all, but it really does qualify as “mystery meat” for the uninitiated.

Friday, January 27 2006 at 12:47 PM

Dave Lemen said:

“Subscribe” makes more sense to more people than “feed”, but not if their user agent fails to actually subscribe them to the feed when they click the link.

If they’re still required to do the right-click, copy, switch to aggregator, and paste rigmarole, then perhaps the link should continue to be a bit forbidding.

I don’t want them to click on something that says “subscribe” and find themselves staring at the raw Atom or RSS. Which means that I need to put a stylesheet on my feed, I suppose.

Saturday, January 28 2006 at 6:10 AM