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Atom is a protocol for syndicating online content, meaning it allows you to republish parts of the content (usually the title and brief description) on your website or newsfeed. Atom can also be used by visitors to a site to subscribe to new content.
Atom is based on XML specifications and is often lumped together with its biggest rival, RSS. Both protocols are commonly used by websites to provide syndication of their content; however, the Atom protocol has never achieved the same level of recognition as RSS.
Frequently Asked Questions
How would I use Atom?
If you’re a blog owner, you might allow visitors to subscribe to your content using a feed. Once they subscribe, your visitors can either get regular updates when you post new content, and then view your content in a special feed reader. Other site owners can also create a feed on their own website that provides a small section of your content for their readers, along with a link to the full post. For instance, if you write a blog about your favorite baseball team, another sports site may include your posts in a feed that features recent sports news from across the Web.
What is the difference between Atom and RSS?
Atom provides a number of advantages over RSS, including additional features like the ability to identify the geographic location of the content creator, as well as support for additional types of technologies; however, RSS continues to be the most popular form of syndication protocol, largely because it came first and built a strong name for itself. Plus, RSS, or Really Simple Syndication, says everything most webmasters want to hear: it’s simple!
Most feed readers support both protocols, and many websites offer both, though they may not always differentiate between the two. In fact, much like we say we’re going to “google” something regardless of what search engine we’re using, many publications use the term RSS to refer to either protocol.