The RSS subscriber count is the statistic I’m most interested in. It tells me how many people are listening to my tips and tutorials (Thank you to anyone that is!)

I want as many people as possible to click that little orange button, so I have chosen unique icons and put them in noticeable places on the site. But what about when they click those links?

I’ve burnt my feed with FeedBurner for the statistics of course, but do I use their “BrowserFriendly” (Log into your feed, then go to Optimize > Browser Friendly), or do I leave it as the default XML?

Why Use the Default XML Display?

  • Clearly not a webpage. An RSS feed is very different to a normal webpage, but with how the FeedBurner page looks, you could think otherwise. Showing the XML page is a clue for new users that the RSS feed needs to be treated differently.
  • Well designed in modern browsers. Most modern browsers have designed a page for showing RSS feeds that is easy to use, but doesn’t fall into the trap of looking like a normal web page like FeedBurner’s.

    The exception is Google Chrome, where the RSS feeds are just a wall of text. But Chrome is still young, so I’m sure that will get sorted soon enough.

Why Use the FeedBurner Page?

  • Links to a “What is RSS?” page. IE7 and Opera both link to an explanation of feeds, but the others don’t. With FeedBurner, everyone gets the explanation link.
  • Includes a “Subscribe by Email” option. There’s no reason not to offer an email version of your feed on your blog already, but incase you haven’t, the FeedBurner page offers this automatically. Not everyone uses RSS, but everyone has an email account!
  • Can be more convenient for people who have already subscribed to a FeedBurner feed. It remembers the reader they chose last time from an extensive list of readers, and offer the same one again.

It Doesn’t Always Matter Which You Choose

The first thought I had when choosing between these two was trying to follow a standard.

Let’s say a FireFox user loads their first ever feed and sees FireFox’s feed page. The next time they load a feed, they should recognize that design and know how to use it, right?

Well, what if the next RSS feed they load is a FeedBurner page? That looks different, and the FeedBurner page is a little more awkward to get used to (Recognizing one of the mess of subscription buttons was how I first caught on to what it was).

So which is more popular, plain RSS or FeedBurnered RSS? If one was clearly in the lead, it could set the standard. If anything, I’d guess FeedBurner was winning but it’s definitely not a clear lead so no standard has been set (And it seems strange to set a standard that relies entirely on one company!).

But it gets better than that, sometimes it doesn’t matter which you choose. Both Safari and Opera override the FeedBurner page and show their own RSS pages instead.

In fairness, these 2 browsers have by far the best RSS pages, but should the browser makers be allowed to overrule what the web owner has chosen? You tell me.

And if you were thinking no, what if they’re doing it much better than FeedBurner? Look below to see Opera’s beautiful (liquid) RSS page, and it’s worth getting Safari just to play with the functionality they built into theirs.


Dave Rigotti recently came up with a clever way of tracking RSS feed conversions. I haven’t done any testing myself, but for anyone interested in testing the two alternatives, this post at Webmaster Source is a good place to start.

Personally, I’ve used plain XML on Pro Blog Design for most of the life of this blog, because I don’t like how the FeedBurner page looks very much. I swapped to the FeedBurner page recently just to try it, but I’ve no data to say one is better than the other. I’m not sure which I’ll wind up using in the end.

So which do you use on your blog? And which do you prefer to see when you click a new feed?

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