feed:// is the new http://

Remember when you actually had to type fully-formed URLs? There was the http:// bit to ensure you didn’t end up in a gopher hole. About gone is the conventional www.. And then there’s the shrinkage of domains to their smallest unique alphanumeric representation: google instead of google.com. Not to mention the the AOL Keywords-alike for the web baked into Firefox: type your query in the Address bar and you’ll be directed straight to the top Google hit, do not pass Go, do not collect $200.

Combining nostalgia for the oh-so-1994 http:// with a cool tip by pal Duncan for using the otherwise barely-functional RSS reader in the Safari browser, I now routinely type feed:// (or feed: for short) where the http:// should be (e.g. feed:news.bbc.co.uk) and jump straight to a nice Table of Contents for any site sporting an auto-discoverable RSS or Atom feed. Despite all but living inside Firefox, Safari serves is put to good use as a quick website summarizer–and it even works from the Firefox address bar.

  • It’s all nice and dandy, and usability wise I love it, but it would be nice to precise that “feed” is not a protocol, and that “feeds” still get sent via “oh so 1994” http… it’s an inelegant hack, at best. ;)

    You will say “but what of “mailto:”! Not a protocol either, right? And we see it in HTML all the time. But mailto doesn’t use http. It merely launches your MUA.

    Again, I like the usefulness of it, I just wish y’all had found a less “wrong” way to do it. ;)

  • Peter Herndon

    Boris, the “feed://” operator in Safari does the exact same thing as “mailto:”, it launches your default RSS/Atom reader. Since I configured NetNewsWire Lite as my default, I type e.g. feed://radar.oreilly.com into Safari’s address bar, and NNWLite pops open with the Radar feed.

    In Rael’s case, he has left Safari 2.0 configured as his default UA for RSS/Atom, that’s all.

  • Peter, the point you miss is that the prefix “something://” denotes the protocol layer, and not the application layer.

    “feed” is not a protocol, like http, ftp, gopher, etc, but an application.

    Just being picky. ;)

  • Unfortunately, it break the Web Architecture.


    You can get the same affect by returning the proper Content-Type.

  • Check out Universal Subscription Mechanism for a way to do the same thing, while obeying the architecture of the Web.


    By the way, the entire “when to GET/POST” blogothread last week happened because we ignored the architecture of the Web. Let’s not make the same mistake again. Please!

  • pb

    R.I.P. “http://www.” and “.com”.

    Totally useless.

  • Really Simple Syndication is great only 1 problem, its not very simple to subscribe to them.
    Feed: is a very good way to do this.

    Some statistics :
    These stats are based on a sample of 3500 users who downloaded and installed our customisable rss reader. (Custom Reader) http://www.customreader.com

    On Average 15% of all these installs have used the reader within the past 48 hours.

    A customised reader for a fan site or media/newspaper 44-50% of users who downloaded have used the reader within the past 48 hours

    The sports fan website the reader was released to the public for initial trial for 36 hours more than 1 month ago and was downloaded 544 times (260 have used the reader within the past 48 hours still.
    Download sites with no explanation of what rss is ranges from 5.5% to 15% in total continued to use the reader the last 48 hours.
    Most complaints in these readers where unable to unsubscribe from brand feeds.
    Did not want msn search as rss, but would have preferred google.

    Blog Sites 18-26% continued to use and had used the reader within the past 48 hours.
    Students customised reader for university and accessing secure university email information 60% have used the reader within the past 48 hours

    37% of people did not take time to select their country during install.
    25% of people allowed feedrank statistics (Our own staistical reporting measuring tool). This jumped to 60% when time was taken to show why statistics where being reported.

    23% of people who read an rss feed clicked through to read the rest of the article at the website.
    When “notice” channels where enabled out of 320 users for a particular 48 hour period 110 clicked through to the website for more information, the advertisement was very targeted.

    We need to get more non technical minded people using RSS the feed: launch is probably the easiest method of doing this.
    One of the reasons we are using an RSS directory with the feed: subscribe protocol to get people who have never used RSS before to actually start using this great resource which has been around for almost 10 years. http://www.feedtime.com
    This is the year of RSS lets embrace it and make it as easy to use as a browser is today.

  • Tried recently a nice app.

    Gregarius => http://www.gregarius.net

    It’s a online rss feed program that works quite nicely, i’m using it since March and the developer is really working on it (php&mysql&css&ajax coming) :)

    devlog : http://devlog.gregarius.net

  • David

    Here is a bookmarklet to automate the process described in the original post, replacing the “http:” with “feed:”:


    Add the link to your bookmark toolbar. Viewing http://news.bbc.co.uk? Click on the bookmarklet to open feed:http://news.bbc.co.uk. Okay, so this doesn’t replace the “http:” with “feed:”. It’s ugly, but it still works.