Well, Formed is Good, Right?

Oh there’s been much talk about Atom being XML, and being dealt with as XML…

Oh there’s been much talk about Atom being XML, and being dealt with as XML, and if RSS is dealt with as XML, or as a collection of tags tied up with strings…

My thought, if anyone cares, is pretty much the same as Tim Bray’s thoughts on Atom:

An Atom feed is going to be defined as an XML document, which means that if it’s not well-formed then it’s not Atom.

I say this because I’ve been working with RSS for the last 4 or 5 years, and I’ve too often dealt with RSS as a bunch of text between tags rather than as XML. Regular expressions have been used rather than nice XML toolkits. Liberal feed parsers were probably a good idea for RSS at the time, as RSS was often not XML, well, poorly formed and broken XML perhaps, but not quite XML. I look forward to getting an Atom feed and using an XML library to parse it and do as I wish. I think that’s only going to happen if we ensure that Atom is XML, and I think we do that by creating good tools to create Atom feeds with.

Recently I had to create a syndication feed for a site using ASP, and while I would have preferred an Atom feed, I wasn’t confident enough that the code we had would always produce well formed XML, so we ended up creating an RSS feed instead for now. I mean, sure, it’ll have errors and not validate sometimes, but that’s just how RSS is. I want more from Atom, and once the tools are there to easily create a valid Atom feed every time, then that’s what we’ll do.