Google News feeds: meh

Yay, Google News now has RSS and Atom feeds.

But, boo, they have RSS and Atom feeds. Both. With no real reason to choose between them: both have heinous escaped table-and-font HTML as the only content, both have escaped numeric character references in the titles (which in Atom, without declaring a type, is invalid, and in RSS is just the usual “what the hell was this supposed to be, HTML or text?”). Having pioneered the “here’s my feed, in the format I’m going to produce, now deal with it” attitude that the rest of us are coming around to with Blogger and GMail’s Atom-only feeds, now they’ve decided to go back to the bad old days of expecting people to choose when they have no basis for a choice.

I certainly hope that the lack of autodiscovery links just means that they haven’t gotten around to doing them yet: with Safari and Opera and Firefox (and of course all feed readers) all doing autodiscovery already, and IE 7 getting ready, now is not the time to blow off autodiscovery for your feeds. If DiBona hadn’t pointed them out, I probably wouldn’t have noticed the little text links in the sidebar.

Then, there’s the content, which I don’t think I’ve ever bitched about before. None of the categories sounded good to me, so I tried a search for Firefox. Along with the usual non-news and interviews with Blake, that would give me an item linking to Mozilla Foundation wants at making RSS usable by mere mortals. Right, I can ignore the wants at making, for a good enough story. However, the story, an aside from a press conference relating to the September releases of Firefox and Thunderbird 1.0 (um, pretty sure we did 1.0 last fall, not this September), just has chofmann saying Our researchers are looking at new ideas now, but we aren’t ready to talk about it now. Um. How much digging would it take to find the wiki, or the first-pass code that’s been in for a week, or the second-pass patch that’s close to landing? If you are reporting about what’s coming up in the next version of a closed source browser, then yeah, you interview people and what they tell you is what you get. But Firefox? Maybe we do drop things in with a loud thump right before branches, but that still gives you plenty of time before a release. If you’re going to wait for an official statement, you’re already last month’s news to anyone who really cares.

So, if you like the sort of content Google News delivers, and especially if you enjoy making a political choice between RSS and Atom feeds, yay for you! Google News has feeds!


Comment by Julian Bond #
2005-08-10 11:51:12

Have you looked at the embedded html in the description field?
– Topped and tailed with <br>
– Tables! With unclosed <tr> and <td>
– The first line of the title is repeated in the description. why?
– <font> tags. Ugh!

Comment by Herr Starr #
2005-08-10 13:24:03

Julian: I expect a lot more of that as RSS catches on with the mainstream. CSS isn’t viable in a feed, so if you need specific font colors and sizes, or specific layouts, you’re gonna use font tags and tables.

And if you’re already going down that road, why not just serve some tag soup and get on with it?

Comment by Jake #
2005-08-11 12:22:20

”if you need specific font colors and sizes, or specific layouts”

You beat me to it with the second part of your comment. If you want to control that stuff, just make me go to your regular web page.

re: ”RSS catches on with the mainstream”

true, but should we consider Google mainstream? I mean, if CNN or maybe my local paper did this, fine…I can understand. But I figured Google would *get* this stuff.

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