RSS vs. Atom: How are Your Web Feeds?

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Difference between RSS and Atom

RSS, better known as Really Simple Syndication, is a collection of web feed formats which is used for frequent updating of work, for example blog entries, news headlines, audio and video. RSS documents consist of full or summarized texts with metadata for publishing dates and authorship. Feeds of this type can be read using software called ‘aggregators’. RSS formats use XML specifically which is used for creating data formats. Atom, on the other hand, refers to a pair of related standards that uses XML language for web feeds in the form of ‘Atom Syndication Format’ while the ‘Atom Publishing Protocol’ is a HTTP-based protocol that creates and updates web resources.


RSS, being a family of web feeds, is often updating the work in standard format and enables RSS readers to check users’ subscribed feeds on a daily basis. In case of new work, downloads and any update that it might find, RSS provides it with a ‘user interface’ to monitor as well as read the feeds. Manually inspecting the websites that are surfed the most can be avoided this way. Instead, subscribing to all that is new on respective browsers every day is readily available. Atom is now mainly used for focused purposes like journalism, marketing, bug-reports or activities involving media content publication.

Content Model

RSS 2.0 might contain either plain text or an escaped HTML, like a payload with no means to indicate which of the two has been provided. Atom provides for a way to explicitly label the kind of content that is provided. Atom also allows broad varieties of payload types involving plain text, escaped HTML, XHTML, XML, Base64-encoded binary and also external content like documents, video, audio streams, and so on. The specified RSS 2.0 depends on the usage of RFC 822 that uses formatted timestamps for communicating the information and details of items in the feed that are created or updated. The Atom group went on to choose RFC 3339 instead of timestamps.

Internalization and Modularity

RSS vocabulary uses its mechanism to indicate human language for the feed and there is no means to specify languages for selective items or text elements. Atom instead uses the standard xml: lang attribute in order to enable specification of a language context that is human readable. Elements of the RSS vocabulary are not reusable in various other XML vocabularies. The Atom syntax is specifically designed to allow elements that can be reused outside Atom feed document.

Similarities and Differences


  • RSS is the simplified version of RSS 0.91 which was released by Netscape. This is no longer a RDF format that is relatively easy for usage.
  • RSS 0.91 format can now be expanded to 0.92 through 0.94 and is compatible with one another but not with only RSS 0.90.
  • RSS 2.0.1 now comes with the internal version number 2.0. The ‘frozen’ status of RSS 2.0.1 has been recently updated as well.


  • This is ‘100% vendor neutral’.
  • It allows possible cross-implementation by all.
  • Lastly, it is freely extensible by anyone and is thoroughly checked.


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