The wonderful world of Apple RSS

Here’s an example feed. You can’t read it in Firefox, and I haven’t been able to get NewsRiver to read it. They must look at the User-Agent header and only return if it’s their browser. Apparently it works with NetNewsWire. What are they doing at Apple?

Well, it’s not a User-Agent thing, it’s looking for a plugin, and it’s only present in Safari. The feed displays in Safari, but I haven’t been able to get a look at the XML source. To say this is somehow RSS is pretty wacky. Did Jobs really say it’s “industry standard,” as Engaget quotes him? I’d love to see some evidence of that.

Wait Phil Ringnalda spotted the url to the “real” feed.

I couldn’t read that in my browser, so here’s a copy.

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.

Engadget quoted Jobs as saying they were using “industry standard” RSS. Even if we used terminology like that (we don’t, there’s no standards body for RSS) one company can’t on its own say it’s standard, esp when it has so many mistakes in it. It’s a fairly damaging lie. Yeah, companies lie, I know — but then sometimes bloggers have to say they’re lying.

Assuming their intentions are good and they’re not trying to kill RSS, why don’t they put some of us under NDA and let us help them get the bugs out before they ship.

See Brent Simmons’s blog for more comments.

67 responses to this post.

  1. The pictures showed up fine in my copy of Vienna on a Mac


  2. What, may I ask, is Vienna?


  3. Posted by Dcook654 on January 11, 2006 at 6:22 pm


    FYI – Seems to work fine on NetNewWire.


  4. Posted by Aspro on January 11, 2006 at 6:48 pm

    works fine in NewsMac Pro aswell


  5. Looks like they tested with the aggregators they like to use, and let them pass through their redirect filter. It’s about as bozo a way to be “open” as I’ve ever heard of.


  6. Posted by Perry on January 11, 2006 at 7:55 pm

    It seems also to work with the Sage plug-in for Firefox.


  7. What I don’t understand is that they didn’t use the Pheed ‘photo:’ namespace for this and invented their own ‘apple-wallpapers: namespace instead…


  8. Posted by Brad Miller on January 11, 2006 at 9:23 pm

    It works in PulpFiction too. Looks like they have it set up so that the main news readers (at least the mac ones) can pull the feed but block everything else.


  9. […] Dave’s WordPress Blog: The Wonderful World of Apple RSS “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.” (tags: interesting funny mac) […]


  10. dunno what perry is smoking.
    I’m running sage 1.3.6 on fx 1.5 on winxp pro, and when i try to add the link to sage, i get “Error: XML Parse Error”


  11. FYI — there’s some discussion of this going on at the email list hosted by Apple. I know that there are some Apple folks like Ernie Prabhakhar on that list so maybe we’ll get some better answers.


  12. Posted by R Muffet on January 11, 2006 at 10:07 pm

    Has anyone posted what the bad tags are? Link please!

    Taking an item from the sample, it seems most of the funky stuff (strange date format, etc) is within the ‘apple-wallpapers:’ namespace, which shouldn’t technically matter to most readers.

    But what else is wrong?


    <p><a href=””><img src=”” alt=”photo” title=”” style=”float:left; padding-right:10px; padding-bottom:10px;”/></a></p><br clear=all>
    2006-01-11 16:43:05 -0800
    2006-01-11 16:42:26 -0800



  13. The static feed you posted also works in RSS Bandit. The fact that still works isn’t an excuse for improperly formatted code, though.


  14. Henri,

    I wrote the pheed spec–if I can call something this simple writing . At the time it was more of experiment and a hopeful idealism that the idea of photo syndication would interest people. As I’m sure a lot of people have learned the hard way, a spec doesn’t really do anything without applications to realize it and with the exception of a few notable cases it hasn’t been embraced. This has a lot to do with the fact that I am a photographer first and any development I do is more of a hobby, which leaves little time to be a cheerleader for an rss extension. This doesn’t mean I don’t think it is important. I think a rss format for photographs would be a boon to individual photographers and small stock agencies–it has the potential to be as transformative to the stock photo and photojournalism world as rss is to journalism. What I wanted to do with pheed was have a format that was semantically sound and simple. For instance, I hate the practice of including images as escaped rss in the description tag, which has become the norm since it works in most aggregators, because it is almost impossible to distinguish a feed meant to serve photos and one with an incidental photo in the description–the semantics are broken. But gaining any traction in this requires aggregator developers to support a format for which there were few feeds.

    Given that, I can understand why apple would prefer to control their own spec rather than jump into bed with a little developer, but this seems to be the challenge with almost all standards–everyone wants there own. The pheed extension is open, free to use and documented, so Apple of course could use it if they wanted. The advantage would be (or would have been) that other developers could easily support it. Either way, as a photographer I’m interested in having ANY format that supports photo syndication gain some traction even if it isn’t mine–but I would prefer it not to be a proprietary one susceptible to the mercurial whims of corporate vacillation.


  15. Posted by scott on January 11, 2006 at 10:58 pm

    > there’s no standards body for RSS

    That’s the problem. Apple can use their dominant position to do as they please. They used the same tactic to gain control of podcasting so why would they think different when it comes to photocasting.


  16. […] Dave Winer: the wonderful world of Apple RSS. Filed under: Blog Stuff @ 11:51 pm # […]


  17. Posted by Frank Jonen on January 11, 2006 at 11:59 pm

    I’m quite happy that they use the W3C recommended XML way of writing the date format instead of the long dead RFC 822 format that RSS and OPML use. Maybe this will turn RSS to the better. How do you write “Thu” in Kanji? They rather have a wider audience than just the english speaking world.

    I know it’s in the code and to some developers users shouldn’t look at code at all, but some people want to know what’s going on with files they see the first time or that they want to write apps for. Maybe Google Earth will help people to realize that there’s more than just the USA.

    Hope springs eternal, doesn’t it? 😉

    The description tag is pretty hacked together tho, would have been wiser to introduce a namespace for that use. Some are encoded, some aren’t. I mean: 3C.jpg”><img – oh please 😉


  18. Posted by Frank Jonen on January 12, 2006 at 12:01 am

    Works like a charm in: NewsFire RSS


  19. Google Reader likes it too


  20. works fine in shrook, one of the best feed readers on the Mac.


  21. “Wait Phil Ringnalda spotted the url to the “real” feed.

    I couldn’t read that in my browser, so here’s a copy.”

    This worked in my 3.2 version of NewsMac and this is quite ancient!


  22. Tried it on a friend’s Netnewswire pro. All 4 images in the test file diplayed OK.


  23. […] Dave Winer, the author of the programming language that created RSS feeds and other Web publishing tools is criticizing Apple’s support of RSS. […]


  24. Just to be clear, the people who say “It works with XXX” are missing something.

    On the server side, Apple is deciding which apps can actually see the content, and which can’t.

    When I make the HTTP request from a vanilla scripting environment, I get back a bunch of HTML saying “You idiot you’re using incompatible software.”

    No I’m not, my software could easily parse their error-laden so-called RSS. They’re just not willing to give it to my scripting environment.

    Hopefully this clears things up. ;->


  25. Mark, great story about the Pheed spec!

    That’s exactly how I felt when Netscape came in and invented their own syndication format when I already had one out in the market.

    And I learned like you are learning now, that you have no power without software, but I make software, so I was able to make a difference.

    To Scott, I don’t think it would make a diff if there were a standards body, but there isn’t. Look at how abysmally the IETF failed here, and how lame the W3C effort has been. Ultimately they’re all getting behind RSS 2.0, with one or two holdouts.

    I think ultimately Apple will straighten this out, but it could work so much better.


  26. Luke H’s SharpReader, on WinXP, is able to read
    though not their “public,” apparetnly filtering, URL.


  27. Posted by Carl on January 12, 2006 at 5:35 am

    So they should just call it industry standard – or industry supported – photocasting and drop the pretense that RSS anything is standard. And they ought to add an ATOM option for all of these tools, feeds, and web clips. Then they can make the standard term hold up and take advantage of, as Frank points out, globalized thinking.


  28. >> On the server side, Apple is deciding which apps can actually see the content, and which can’t.


  29. Posted by Carl on January 12, 2006 at 6:07 am

    Server side decisions on supported capabilities of a client is as old as the hills through both user-agent header strings and supported content type negotiation.


  30. Seems to work fine in FeederReader on the Pocket PC. I agree it’s an incorrectly-formatted feed. The validator says:

    Feeds should not be served with the “application/octet-stream” media type [help]

    line 7, column 42: pubDate must be an RFC-822 date-time [help]

    2006-01-11 16:43:22 -0800 ^
    line 8, column 48: lastBuildDate must be an RFC-822 date-time [help]

    2006-01-11 16:43:22 -0800 ^
    line 11, column 8: Undefined channel element: guid [help]

    95148ACD-C1A3-45C3-A927-15C836892DCC ^
    line 21, column 46: pubDate must be an RFC-822 date-time (4 occurrences) [help]

    2006-01-11 16:42:55 -0800

    Greg Smith
    Author, FeederReader – Pocket PC *direct* RSS text, audio, video, podcasts – Download on the Road


  31. This is ridiculous. They don’t even have an autodiscovery link tag in the HTML page to refer to the RSS feed. This makes using automated tools kinda tough.


  32. FeedTools was able to read most of it, but yeah, this is pretty ugly. After the podcast debacle, I can’t say I’m even slightly surprised though.


  33. Well, photocast.* is the iPhoto-oriented domain, web.* is the traditional RSS source. If Apple’s somehow added specific additional functionality over this RSS feed, then this kind of up-front determination is necessary to trigger it. Do they? I don’t know.

    Which leads to the problem: we’ve all looked at the raw URLs but we haven’t looked at the workflow. Yes, I have a URL, but how does the app share it? Is it a link on the page? Is it emailed? What happens when I open it in Safari — does it lightly embed iPhoto somehow? Apple’s presumably done it to solve some usability/user flow concern — would it have been better implemented through a new mime-type? as a new extension? And how would that have degraded down for those who didn’t have the new types registered?

    I like to have some context with my dismissing.

    (But yes, the browser message should support auto-discovery. That’s just a dumb oversight.)


  34. Posted by Innocent Bystander on January 12, 2006 at 9:36 am

    ” I know that there are some Apple folks like Ernie Prabhakhar on that list so maybe we’ll get some better answers.”

    I wouldn’t count on it. My experiences with that individual is that he is the anti-midas. All he touches turns to lead.


  35. […] Apple said in their keynote address by Steve Jobs that they are supporting RSS.  Anyway a group of great folks on are it include the father of RSS Dave Winer. […]


  36. […] UPDATE: Restando in tema di danni… la nuova ideazza di Steve sono i photocast, AKA “abbiamo la musica, abbiamo i video, infiliamo nei feed anche le foto”. Che ha senso, decisamente. Ma sembra abbiano fatto un mezzo casino rendendosi incompatibili con mezzo universo. […]


  37. works fine on netnewswire, too. 😀


  38. Having no problems here through NetNewsWire.


  39. […] And, as a final ironic kicker, Apple’s new Photocasting feeds uses a bug-ridden flavor of RSS that was only tested in a handful of readers. Of course, the irony being that Microsoft, of all people, have recently announed that Internet Explorer 7 will not only support standards compliant RSS, but ONLY standards compliant RSS. […]


  40. Heh, actually…

    Not to nitpick or anything Dave, but right now your feed is being served up as text/html. 🙂


  41. Eh, that problem disappear quite quickly. Preserved for posterity just for the delicious irony though…



  42. Posted by Mark Watson on January 13, 2006 at 3:18 pm

    Works fine in Akregator in KDE linux.


  43. Firefox 1.5 on win 2000 – fails to display.


  44. Dudes, this RSS is ridiculous.

    At this stage, and pending some kind of update, the RSS doesn’t work on IPODS!

    Try it yourself.. I thought the whole idea of photo-casting, would be like a pod-cast.. with photos 😉

    I’m sure an update will be out soon, which will make me and the other photobloggers worldwide very happy, but I fail to see why they didn’t just use the tag RSS 2.0 spec which seems to be working fine for their audio and video casts? Surely photo capabale ipods would have no trouble? Even if they introduced a specific format like they did with video, it still makes more sense this way.

    I think the photo-cast terminology is misleading, they just want to use RSS to “share” photos and will use their software to squeeze a few more bucks from .MAC and ilife in the process.

    Audio support on ipods is great, video support is a bit restrictive, but I’m still waiting to see the photo RSS come to fruition. *fingers crossed*

    (already raised this issue in the apple podcast producer forums tonight too)


  45. er the ” enclosure ” tag I meant there (included triangle brackets which sucked it up.. oops 😉


  46. Posted by Pai on January 14, 2006 at 5:30 am

    Works wery well in Opera, if you just ignore the “This browser is not supported”-message you get.


  47. Anyone have any idea what the date format they are using is? Look at the example feed and u will see a tag called PhotoDate = 2159.525602

    That number works out as 2005-11-29T04:36:52 but what the hell, how do they convert that?


  48. If anyone is interested I threw this together today.

    It will take a feed from flickr and rework it a little so that it uses the large images and contains the comment of the photo as well. It is an Atom 1.0 feed that seems to validate on the feeds I have tested, it also includes most of the extra apple stuff debated here. If I can work out the date format I will add that too, and myabe the tags can be retrived and added so they appear as keywords.

    To use just paste any feed from flickr into the box and hit the button, the feed should just open up in iPhoto, if not it will just be a regular atom feed with all the relevent enclosures so it will work in NetNewsWire or whatever your reader is.

    If its useful let me know.


  49. Apple just ignored all the work done by Media RSS
    and created a feed format that ‘s not even valid RSS

    see comparison of Apple RSS and Flickr RSS on


  50. […] (via Dave Winer) Apple’s newly-released iPhoto 6 does an admirable job of making it easy for its users to publish feeds of their photos from their desktop. When Steve Jobs announced the product, he cited its use of “industry standard” RSS technology to make this posssible. […]


  51. Posted by Rao Yeleswarapu on January 17, 2006 at 1:17 pm

    I am using Firefox with Sage plug -in and I am getting the following error:

    We’re Sorry

    The browser you are using does not support the display of photocasts.

    You can view the photos in this photocast with Safari RSS (included with Mac OS X v10.4 Tiger or later) or other photo-compatible RSS reader for Mac, Windows, and other operating systems. Copy the link below and bookmark or subscribe to it using your RSS reader so you can return to the photos in the future.

    Learn more about iPhoto 6 and viewing photocasts.


  52. […] I guess I was most impressed with Apple’s coining of the term “Photocasting”, though it seems like there may be some problems with it. Regardless, we already support photo enclosures in I/ON, so that will have to be part of our next release! […]


  53. […] There’s a debate raging (OK, so isn’t every debate raging on the Internet) over what Steve Jobs said about iPhoto 6 using “industry standard” RSS for its photocasting feature. Well Kevin Yank disagrees, and Dave Winer, the inventor of RSS, certainly has a problem with it. […]


  54. […] How about we ask the man who made RSS in the first place, see what he thinks? Oops, bad news, Steve: Dave said no. […]


  55. Posted by coff33@nite on January 20, 2006 at 12:07 am

    Vienna is nice for Mac. thank you PXLated


  56. […] Apple’s iPhoto photocasting breaks RSS (as pointed out by Dave Winer).  I have 3 Macs at home, but if I’m going to pay to upgrade iLife, I would hope that somebody would have put better thought into this. […]


  57. […] I’ve ranted about Mac OS X before, and my recent finding of how even Keynote, another Apple application, breaks the usual shortcut to change focus between windows in the same running application, just adds to the disappointment. Luckily, I use a Mac at work, so I’m not into some applications like iPhoto, and that saves me from another rant about the “industry standard” format (a simple, plain lie) they are using for their photo casting feeds, as quoted by Dave Winer quoting Engadget (but without a link). Unfortunately I have to update the operating system regularly; and when every PHP application running on my computer and in needs of talking to a MySQL database started malfunctioning after the 10.4.4 update, I began to transform my disappointment in angriness. Isn’t an update supposed not to break anything? After diagnosing the problem correctly myself, that the MySQL socket place in the file system had been changed, I found on the Internet some known workarounds. But really, isn’t an update supposed not to break anything, at least anything that simple? Or should one feel lucky because the update broke something that simple only? […]


  58. Dave, watch the keynote here — he does say industry standard:

    All mac RSS clients use WebKit to view HTML, this could be the reason why they all work correctly. iPodderX doesn’t use webkit to get the RSS file, but rather URLLIB2 from Python and is why I see the same issues as Mark does.


  59. […] Lots of news about Apple and RSS the last two weeks. They have published an iPhoto feed with lots of errors. Hmm, I think cross platform compatible feeds are hard to find nowadays;) They will need to do better with the Quicktime RSS feed, and maybe that’s why they are searching for someone that has some experience in RSS… […]


  60. Hello!
    I am writing on a followup to my book from 2000: “The fifth estate – journalists role and methods when entering the digital media on the net”.
    The blogging of today could be expected, but nobody I think were able to foresee the tsunami. I am asking for a little help on this opinion of mine:
    The blogger tsunami of 2005 stems mainly from programmer pioneers, doing some “came to think of it” obvious server side scripting twists. “Come on in” they then said to the so inclined. Outspoken, educated youth and oldies reacted spontaneously together with new media gurus and oldtime media professionals out of job, eager to have a public voice even so. Then followed by journalists still on big medias payroll.


  61. Last lines on topic above.
    Would you say I’m correct here? and if so could you say when and name the pioneers and how they went about the task.
    Thank you very much!


  62. […] 而 Apple 在 iLife’06 版本的 iPhoto 當中,提供了一項新功能,叫做 Photocast ,原理是 iPhoto 可以訂閱包含照片資料的 RSS 或 Atom,在對方網佔有任何更新的時候,可以立刻將遠端的照片抓取到 iPhoto 的像本中,在網路上可以看到許多人在討論蘋果的 RSS 格式相關問題,例如 The wonderful world of Apple RSS …等。此外,Flickr 所產生的 Atom ,也可以順利以 Photocast 方式,讀入到 iPhoto 中。 […]


  63. Hi, is there a way to receive your blog feed in my daily email? Randy in Tacoma.


  64. […] 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. cf 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) […]


  65. It seems also to work with the Sage plug-in for Firefox.


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