By Kevin Yank

RSS icon “standardized”

By Kevin Yank

Break out your HTML editors! After much deliberation, Microsoft has decided to adopt the same icon for representing RSS feeds (and Atom feeds) that is used in Firefox.

With this icon currently in Firefox and set to appear in Internet Explorer 7 next year, it will quickly become the standard user experience for feeds on the Web. Web designers would be well advised to begin using it instead of the familiar-but-problematic [RSS] and XML icon icons.

  • mmj


    Microsoft has decided to follow Firefox.

  • Nice , but won’t matter much as we can see a variety in different websites’s.

  • What’s problematic about the RSS and XML icons? Did I miss a flamewar somewhere?

  • What’s problematic about the RSS and XML icons? Did I miss a flamewar somewhere?

    Here are the main arguments against the existing icons:

    * “RSS” and “XML” are technical terms that don’t mean anything to everyday users
    * “RSS” and “XML” (not to mention “Atom”) refer to specific feed technologies, which users shouldn’t have to know about, any more than they should have to know the difference between GIF, JPG, and PNG
    * “RSS” and “XML” are English-language acronyms — an appropriate icon would cross language barriers

    I vaguely remember a number of flame wars along these lines back when people were trying to decide between “RSS”, “XML” and other alternatives. I’ll see if I can dig up any links.

  • mmj

    Here is a bit of background info:

    And an amusing bugzilla bug about the old ‘RSS’ icon.

  • Too bad I like Opera’s and Safari’s better. I’m not a fan of the orange, and I only use the orange ones because people are use to them. Now I have to all of a suddent change that, just because some stupid web companies decided so? Mozilla and Microsoft are teaming up on that whole “do as we say” thing. No me gusta.

  • Zappa

    Charmedloved, I’m surprised to hear that you prefer Opera’s, but it’s hardly “too bad”, because you don’t use IE or Firefox. You don’t have to change anything, regardless of what “stupid web companies” do. And suggesting that Mozilla and Microsoft are “teaming up” is one of the more ridiculous things I’ve heard you say.

  • “XML and RSS are technical terms that don’t mean anything to average users” :rofl: And an orange square with a dot and 2 arcs do??
    And does the average user understand mark-up, script, or SMTP and HTTP to use email or surf the web? Call it what it is. Someone at Firefox got the idea for a “catchy” graphic and IE is following along.

  • poncho

    Excellent, but I bet they’re gonna call it a “Microsoft News Affiliation Broadcast” or something equally daft :)

  • Mike Empuria

    With the RSS icon you could at least follow it up with a “What is RSS?” a la the BBC to help the “average user.” More difficult with an icon I’d have thought.

  • I agree with Mittineague. Average users will be confused with new icon as well as they are currently with rss or xml ones. I maintain a site with non technical info; have a really comprehensive explanation on the page what rss is and how it can be used, but still 90% of visitors are confused with it. I guess it will take some time for average use to become familiar with all those terms, but that is a different story. :)

  • Zappa, you must not have been at SitePoint very long, lol.

    My main point isn’t that Microsoft and Mozilla are working together. It’s that I can see that Mozilla could potentialy start acting like Microsoft, as in it’s my way or the high way. I want Firefox to be like it is now, with just a bigger userbase. I don’t want them to get to the point where they don’t care about the web developers.

    I think that this is a threat for any major web browser.

  • What’s problematic is people’s reading comprehension. M$ never intended to usurp the XML and RSS orange box icons. The entire “thing” started by them proposing several icon styles for the little indicator ON THE BROWSER. No one ever claimed that you had to use Firefox’s icon on your page when they came up with their browser feed-indicator, so you don’t have to change it now just because Microsoft has adopted it too.

  • Dr Livingston

    if microsoft, for once, are saying that they are taking the route of firefox, to me that seams like microsoft are trying to in some small way, deflate firefox.

    what i mean is that some people will remember microsoft for this, but they’ll not remember firefox for it, in that they may not be aware of the true facts of the matter.

    that is just ignorance for you i suppose, and there are people out there for better or worse, who are ignorant.

  • I agree that you woudn’t have to start using this icon because of this – in firefox this icon shows up whenever there are rss feed links on the page, even multiple feeds. It doesn’t denote a specific feed. Many sites may have multiple feeds (in different formats even) on a page. One icon doesn’t explain that.

    I know all about RSS, atom, etc and I had been using Firefox off and on for a while after this feature was added and never even paid attention to this icon – I ended up reading about it on a random site and looked and said “whaddayouknow – it is there.” Even if I had seen it I would likely not paid attention because it is so generic – how can we expect people to know what it is that don’t even understand the concept of feeds? There are very few buttonslinks/etc out there that are standalone icons – most are acompanied by text.

    Most people would still have the word “back” to go along with the back button. It would be arguable to say that the masses understand that icon well enough to remove the text from it, especially new users. Feeds are still new to a huge percentage of internet users – how does this icon help them understand what this “new” thing is? At least when they see “RSS” or “XML” over and over as icons, when they hear or read about RSS feeds, they have some pre-existing familitarity with it. Vice-versa, if they hear a news story about using RSS in passing, then later when they go to a site with a button that says “RSS” they might make a connection.

    I actually like this icon a lot – it’s just not enough by itself, for quite some time to come…

  • The point to this is that while the common user may not know what this is now – they hopefully will in the future by using a standard symbol. The common user may never know what RSS is, but if browsers and emails integrate readers into them, they’ll use it anyway. I know people who have Google Desktop and have feeds going through that – they’ve got zero idea what the technical term is, nor do they care. If they need to call it something “links” or “feeds” is what I’ve heard them use. I think “feeds” will become the word associated with it.

    Eventually, you could probably use your own color for it and have it be understood easily, but for now orange is probably the safe way to go. It still doesn’t mean you have to adopt it, but if you run a website that reaches out to many, it’s not a bad idea.

  • It’s just too similar to other icons (volume, the wi-fi meter on OSX, etc) to be a standalone icon. There are so many hardware-related events that use the radiating lines, that it doesn’t in any way describe what the icon is for.

    The only icons I really can think of that are (effectively) used widespread as icon-only on the web right now are:

    1) back buton (only due to a long period of having text next to it)
    2) Home (very obvious imagery)
    3) SSL lock (and most browser makers are going with something more obvious soon)
    4) Print page (again, obvious imagery – usually)

    Of these, they really aren’t even used much in actual pages, just the browser itself (except maybe home and print). Again, you have to think in terms of the uninitiated – those already in-the-know can be sold on a pink dot, but that does nothing to promote the concept.

    The only way I see it working icon-only is for everyone to definitely keep the orange color – that way it will EXACTLY match the icon on the browser toolbar, which would lead to a connection by the user. Otherwise, it will look like something related to audio or networking to the user.

  • Pete

    What about the text that describes the icon? Shouldn’t that be standardized as well, so that folks using assistive technology like screen readers can easily locate these icons on a web page?

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  • a) I think it’s great that Microsoft went along with what Mozilla already uses, rather than using something different “just because”.

    b) I think it’s funny that the original post ends with “Web designers would be well advised to begin using it instead of the familiar-but-problematic RSS icon and XML icon icons”, yet the top of the post has an RSS icon on it!

  • As a user of IE7b1, I can shed some light here …

    Poncho, MS intend to call them “Web Feeds” to remove the techno speak from the name.

    To my knowledge the icon is only located on the browser next to the “Web Feeds” folder (listed as part of your “Favorites” menu) and on the toolbar. There is nothing anywhere that suggests that this become the standard icon for use on web pages for feeds, but it does make sense that if two major browsers are using this icon, that web sites use the same icons on their pages to provide consistency for non-tech savy users.

    Also, because IE7 auto detects the presense of feeds on the page you are currently viewing, the icon in the toolbar activates/deactivate in response to what it finds. For example, if I go to this site, it highlights, then I push it, and I get the main Sitepoint feed displayed in a nice readable format.

    Now if only I could view several feeds at once in an aggregate/newspaper style, I would be very happy. Otherwise, it isn’t really that big a deal.

    Just be prepared because Vista will call them Web Feeds as well, which means, its going to get harder to push the RSS/XML/ATOM icons because of the disassociation.

  • Complete Stranger

    “Web designers would be well advised to begin using it instead of the familiar-but-problematic RSS and XML icons. ”

    Unlike the Web designers on Sitepoint which still stick to them ;-)

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  • craiga

    Matt Brett has made these icons available in Photoshop and Illustrator formats over at

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  • bong

    I’m not a fan of the orange, and I only use the orange ones because people are use to them. here are the syndication icons in more colours

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