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Real-World XML: Part 6 of 12

Understanding the Atom Syndication feed By Joe Marini

XML technologies offer web developers and designers more flexibility than ever before. In Real-World XML, industry expert Joe Marini covers the best programming practices with XML, including the tools needed to build effective XML structures. He demonstrates the implementation of XML formats, how these formats work in real-world situations, and how they can facilitate project planning and development. Exercise files accompany the course.

XML Essential Training is a prerequisite for getting the most out of this course.

Topics include:

  • Understanding the Sitemap index format
  • Integrating XML and design
  • Using XML effectively in Firefox and Internet Explorer
  • Avoiding common design mistakes
  • Understanding and implementing DOM algorithms
  • Building an XML tag set
  • Using XML with RSS and Atom
  • Processing XML data with XSLT

Understanding the Atom Syndication feed

Okay, the next real-world XML format that we are going to take a look at is called the Atom Syndication Feed and the Atom Format is a term that applies to two related formats. The first one is called the Atom Syndication Feed and that refers to web data feeds. You can think of this as analogous to being the same thing as RSS.


Atom also defines what's known as a publication format and that's a specification that deals with creating and maintaining resources on the web.

We are not going to deal with that particular specification in this section because it's fairly complex. So we are going to focus on the syndication feed in order to see how Atom implements an XML format.

So just like RSS, Atom is used to provide information in the form of easily consumable chunks of data from sites on the web that are updated periodically or in using another term, syndicated. Then these are typically things like blogs or news site. The Syndication Spec that we are going to be looking at for web feeds was adopted back in 2005 and you can learn more about the Atom Specification at a website called and I have provided the link there. And there's also the ietf site which contains the full link to the specification for the Atom Syndication Feed Format and that's rfc4287.

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And you can see I have also provided the link for that as well.

Atom feeds are composed of a collection of XML tags just like RSS is. Again, just like RSS, some of these tags are required and some of them are optional.

All Atom feeds like all XML documents have a root tag and in the case of Atom feeds the root tag is known as the feed tag. The feed tag contains some required child tags along with zero or more entry tags and each entry represents an individual piece of content.

Now I say zero or more or more because technically speaking, they are optional, but Atom feeds aren't very useful if they don't have any entries in them. So we'll take a look at that in a moment. So to define an Atom feed, you can see I have created a feed tag there and I have included the XML name space that specifies the name space for Atom in my xmlns attribute. We are not going to be using that in this example.

But if you wanted to include content from an Atom feed in another document say an XHTML document, you would use the name space for that. Okay, so that's a quick introduction to what Atom is. Let's get into the basics of the Atom format now and start building our first feed.

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Joe Marini is the director for Microsoft's Visual Studio Industry Partner program, and has been active in the Web and graphics industries for more than 15 years. He was an original member of the Dreamweaver engineering team at Macromedia, and has also held prominent roles in creating products such as QuarkXPress, mFactory's mTropolis, and Extensis QX-Tools. He is regularly a featured speaker at industry conferences and has authored or co-authored several books on Web development. His book The Document Object Model is widely regarded as the definitive resource for working with the DOM.


Related Keywords:xml, Extensible Mark-Up Language, Atom Syndication, xml training, xml tutorial, xml techniques, xml design, web design, web site design

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