Author: oscarbenedito <email@example.com>
Date: Sat, 18 Apr 2020 17:01:16 +0200
New entry: Use web feeds!
1 file changed, 145 insertions(+), 0 deletions(-)
diff --git a/content/blog/2020-04-18-use-web-feeds.md b/content/blog/2020-04-18-use-web-feeds.md
@@ -0,0 +1,145 @@
+title: "Use web feeds!"
+tags: ["Decentralization", "Personal website", "Privacy", "Website"]
+Web feeds are data formats used to provide users with updates through web
+syndication. Websites can use web feeds to post their content in a format that
+allows users to easily check for updates regularly. Examples of web feeds are
+[Atom][atom], [RSS][rss] or [JSON Feed][json-feed].
+The most popular is RSS, you have probably heard of it. Until a year ago, RSS to
+me was an old technology that some people used to get their news on an ugly feed
+reader. I thought this technology was obsolete because of the couple
+[silos][silo] that monopolize online social interactions. Well, this couldn't be
+further from the truth. Web feeds are definitely not obsolete, and those "ugly
+readers" I remembered were just particular examples, but there are a lot of
+beautiful readers out there. There's also a lot of people that want to be able
+to get updates on different sites without the need to have an account on a
+centralized third-party service.
+Let's see the benefits of using web feeds.
+### Web decentralization
+Web feeds allow for web syndication, which is key in order to decentralize the
+web. When you follow a blog or a podcast through web feeds, neither you nor the
+content creator rely on a third party to update you on the content. There's no
+need to post a new update on a social platform. When new content is published,
+the subscribers will see the updates coming directly from the original domain.
+### Centralized updates
+Wait, what?! Well, not as in "centralized service", but as in you get all the
+updates from all these different websites in one app or program. Web feeds allow
+the subscriber to see all the content updates in one place, so convenient!
+Without it, we probably would have to check every single website regularly to
+see if new content was published (or maybe design a bot that would do that for
+us, but still, annoying).
+### Control over content posting
+By not relying on a third party for content updates, creators have full control
+over their communication channel. It will never shut down—disappearing along
+with the subscribers—, unless the creator decides to do so. There also won't be
+any *magical* algorithms that decide which updates are worth showing to their
+subscribers and which ones are not, or even which ones *magically* get deleted.
+Subscribers get all of them.
+### Control over the consumption of content
+By using web feed readers, you can configure a dark theme, a bigger font, etc.
+You can even have the content read to you. There are accessibility features for
+webpages as well, but when using a web feed it is so much easier, since the
+content is presented in a standardized format. It is also in the user's power to
+filter the content any way they want. Do you want to block certain words? Done!
+### Privacy for the subscriber
+There's no need to insist on the fact that silos are a privacy nightmare. But
+there's more. If you are reading a web feed, there are no advertisements
+tracking you and there are no [tracking pixels][tracking-pixel]. You read the
+content (or not) whenever you want, without anybody tracking you.
+### The disadvantages
+So, why doesn't everyone use it? First of all, most of the blogs I read have a
+web feed, Mastodon does too, as well as Youtube[^other-platforms]. However, you
+cannot comment through a feed reader and you normally don't see the "related
+content" and all those extra features we can find on a website[^distractions].
+There is also an entry barrier: it takes a couple fewer seconds to hit
+subscribe/follow than to look for the web feed and open your web feed reader to
+[^other-platforms]: If you want to follow people from other big social media
+ sites, there are ways to do so! Use an instance of [Nitter][nitter] for
+ Twitter or an instance of [Bibliogram][bibliogram] for Instagram. If you have
+ other sites in mind, look around the Internet, someone probably implemented a
+ web feed for it.
+[^distractions]: This is actually seen as a good thing most of the time, as you
+ get to consume the content without any distractions.
+Web feeds also work best when you have a lot of sites that publish every once in
+a while. If you subscribe to 500 sites that publish hourly, it can get
+overwhelming with the common feed readers (although there are probably others
+that are ready for this kind of usage and make it nice).
+Finally, web feeds avoid tracking subscribers and the embedding of adds. That
+can be an inconvenience to the content owner, who might want to do that.
+Although I am not a fan of it, it is definitely something that happens. If that
+is your case, there is an easy solution: don't post the content on the web feed.
+Simply put your title and a two-line summary of the content. Subscribers can
+then press on the link and open the content. This way you keep your subscribers
+up to date, without losing the capacity to embed ads.
+## Why e-mail newsletters are not a web feed substitute
+E-mail newsletters have that decentralized component, you don't depend on a
+centralized service (although most of them do, but that isn't necessary).
+However they are definitely not private. First of all, you need to give out your
+e-mail address, who knows if it will end up on a spam list? If you want to
+unsubscribe you have to go to their website and hope for them to erase your data
+and not only archive it somewhere. Finally, e-newsletters can—and most
+do—contain tracking pixels, so they can know how many times a subscriber
+accesses the content and when.
+If you have an e-newsletter but don't have a website for it, then you have a
+reasonable excuse not to have a feed (although you should definitely make a
+website!). If you post your newsletter online, then add a web feed! It is very
+## Fun fact!
+As a matter of fact, I started writing a post on RSS feeds about three weeks
+ago. When writing why you should add the whole content on your RSS feed and not
+only a summary, I remembered that to do so, I did a little hack. I would put the
+whole content in the `description` tag, which was designed for a brief summary.
+That got me thinking, I wanted to follow the standards. After searching for a
+while, I discovered you can use the `content:encoded` tag, which is exactly what
+I needed, but there where other tags that also seemed to do the same. After some
+more research, I discovered RSS has some standardization issues. So I looked at
+the alternative I had heard about before: Atom. Apparently, Atom arose from the
+need to standardize RSS, with a new design that wouldn't have backward
+compatibility. Atom is very similar to RSS, but I like the fact that there is
+one clear specification (apparently it has other cool features in case you are
+interested, but I didn't look into them much).
+After reading about this I learned how it worked and implemented for my blog's
+feed (since Hugo's default is RSS). So if you use my web feed, you are now
+retrieving an Atom feed!
+As you probably figured my first draft had a different approach than the final
+post. This was partially because shortly after I started writing,
+[this][kevq-post] post came out so I changed my focus a bit. If you don't post
+your full content on your web feed, read it!
+[rss]: <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RSS> "RSS — Wikipedia"
+[atom]: <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atom_(Web_standard)> "Atom — Wikipedia"
+[json-feed]: <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/JSON_Feed> "JSON Feed — Wikipedia"
+[silo]: <https://indieweb.org/silo> "Silo — IndieWeb Wiki"
+[tracking-pixel]: <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Web_beacon> "Web beacon — Wikipedia"
+[nitter]: <https://github.com/zedeus/nitter> "Nitter repository"
+[bibliogram]: <https://github.com/cloudrac3r/bibliogram> "Bibliogram repository"
+[kevq-post]: <https://kevq.uk/why-having-a-full-post-rss-feed-is-a-good-idea/> "Why Having A Full Post RSS Feed Is A Good Idea — Kev Quirk"