Apple creates RSS the Microsoft way

When Apple reinvented the photofeed, they actually were a bit sloppy. Instead of building upon standard RSS and the Media RSS extensions backed by Yahoo!, Feedburner et al., they decided to do what Microsoft has always been accused of: they made a different, non-compatible RSS format.

It’s pretty bad. There are lots of errors, the date formats are wrong, there are elements that are not in RSS that aren’t in a namespace.
via (Dave Winer)

Apple photocast RSS

  • First of all, it looks like they made a ‘wallpaper-cast’ instead of photocast. The RSS extensions are called
  • The RSS feeds are only accessible with a specific UserAgent, i.e. only with Apple Safari. Try to open it in any browser and you get an error message. (Update: actually, while I was writing this, the behaviour seems to have been changed to delivering the RSS with Content-Type: application/octet-stream. So this is more or less fixed – application/rss+xml would have been better)
  • The dates are not conform the RFC822 standard: “2006-01-11 16:43:22 -0800” should be “Wed, 11 Jan 2006 16:43:22 -0800”. Most RSS parsers will have no problem with this, but if there’s an official RSS specification, why not follow it.
  • They put the image URL in the link field, which does not allow extra attributes like type or size. Why not use enclosure?
  • For all the date related metadata (photoDate, cropdate), why not use Dublin Core dcterms?

Compare this to the Flickr Photofeeds: they use standard RSS 2.0, enriched with the MediaRSS extensions.
Flickr Photocast/Photofeed RSS

My prediction: Apple will have to comply to the RSS specification (e.g. using correct dates), but they will stick to their own RSS extensions instead of using Media RSS. So if you have a need for photocasting, wait until Feedburner have released some Apple Photocast specific options, and let Feedburner convert your photocast feed for you:

  • SmartCast for Photocast should convert dates to standard RFC822 dates
  • it should add an image enclosure to each item (not done now:
  • it should add Media RSS entensions
  • using Feedburner means that you can change your feed provider afterwards, e.g. migrate from .Mac to Flickr or Pixagogo, without losing your subscribers
  • using Feedburner means that you can monitor how many people are subscribed to your feed.


5 thoughts on “Apple creates RSS the Microsoft way”

  1. I sure wish the developers of aggregators would start supporting one of the photo extensions so people can stop putting the photos in the description element as html. In an ideal world the description would describe the attached photo without also including the photo so you could treat the photo and the description as individual pieces of data. As it is, if you want to create an interesting application that takes the photo from the extension and displays it with the description, you get two photos–the one from the attachment and the one from the description. In the end you either end up ignoring the photo rss extension or scrape out the html from the description. But people (naturally) want to see the photos in the aggregators which leaves the creator little choice other than the current bad practice.

  2. What we need is a disinterested third party. Apple is not going to use an RSS extension in its products with a namespace. It just won’t happen at this stage. It would be nice if we could all just get along but, since apple and yahoo could end up fighting over the same turf, there is little chance that the path to standards begins with apple adopting yahoo’s format.

  3. You know I would like to add something here. Flickr themselves are pretty guilty of not providing decent feeds. For example their Atom feeds are still on version 0.3, and they tend to do things like mess up the keywords i.e. they strip spaces and extra chars and put them in a space seperated list under DC->Subject when Atom has a perfectly good Category attribute, and they keywords could each be put in their own Category tag.

    And I think Apple would have actually been better off going for Atom rather than RSS 2.0. It supports nearly everything they hacked into RSS 2.0 already. In fact I have made some perfectly valid Atom feeds that iPhoto will process happily that include all the dates and keywords etc.

    If anyone wants to play around with my Flickr Atom feeds in iPhoto u can go here: Paste in the url of the flickr feed, hit the button and you will be asked by iphoto to subscribe to the feed. The main reason I am doing it this way is because they dont play nicly with each other really and I put a bit of glue in between to get the tags, comments, correct dates and image sizes into iPhoto

  4. The date format is pretty standard ISO format. Why do you think the totally stupid computer format like ‘Sun, 13 Jan …’ is better then the ISO format? Not everyone in the world is speaking English and using this kind of displaying date.

  5. I don’t think RFC822 is so much better than ISO8601. Personally I think all machine-to-machine formats should use UTC. (see RFC-3339)
    But the RSS specification says RFC-822. “All date-times in RSS conform to the Date and Time Specification of RFC 822, with the exception that the year may be expressed with two characters or four characters (four preferred).”

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