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RSS on Microsoft’s new Internet Explorer gets favorable review

February 2, 2006

Rick Klau, VP of Business Development at Feedburner, gives a thumbs up as to the IE 7 use of RSS.

RSS. This is an area where IE almost completely nails the user experience, with one unfortunate misstep. First, the good: whenever you visit a site with a feed, the orange feed icon lights up. Clicking on it gives you a view of the feed, and makes subscribing in IE a one-step process. Up to that point, it’s a seamless and well-presented integration that makes the value of RSS more apparent: like this website? Subscribe to it so that the new stuff is delivered to you! It’s presented as a counterpart to bookmarks; feeds are sites that deliver stuff to you, bookmarks are sites you go to visit. As widely anticipated ever since the IE7 announcements at Gnomedex last year, this will no doubt drive mainstream adoption of RSS. That’s good.

Here’s the misstep: like Apple, Microsoft chose to apply a stylesheet to the feed, so that users don’t see raw XML when they click the feed icon. That’s an altogether good idea, since the vast majority of feeds out there show you far more angle brackets than any individual should have to confront. The misstep is that Microsoft pays no attention if the feed already has a stylesheet — in other words, if the publisher has chosen to decide how their feed should look in a browser, Microsoft ignores those instructions and applies their own. Several publishers have already complained about this, and I expect Microsoft will hear a lot of similar feedback in the near future.

Rick concedes he has a horse in this race:

FeedBurner’s ‘browser friendly’ service creates these stylesheets for tens of thousands of publishers, and our work (and their choices) are rendered moot by Microsoft’s approach in IE7 beta 2. A simple configuration option — letting a publisher’s stated preference at least getting equal billing with Microsoft’s stylesheet — would alleviate much of the publisher community’s concern on this point……

That complaint aside, I’m very impressed with what I see so far.

RSS is catching on. Getting Microsoft users on board in mass will bring RSS feeds into mainstream use on the net.

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