Bloglines Proposes Feed Access Control Standard

Posted on August 2, 2006

There are many people that have a feed that do not want the feed to be public. Bloglines announced a new feed access control standard that could help solve the problem. The idea could help people hide their feeds from the unwanted eyes of employers and strangers while still being able to share feeds with friends and family members.

As we've seen more types of information get syndicated, and as feeds are becoming used for multiple purposes, we've been growing concerned about the lack of controls on the distribution of personal data, especially through RSS. For example, you may want to allow your friends and family to subscribe to your blog but you'd prefer your posts not show up in search results.

Along these lines, we recently offered a new way to claim your own feeds and indicate whether you want your feed included or excluded from Blog & Feed search on and Bloglines (for more information, read the blog post announcing our Publisher Tools). But this method only solves the issue at Bloglines and, and it doesn't address user-created (as opposed to publisher-created) feeds, like flickr feeds, which can't be claimed. Clearly, there is a need for an industry-wide solution.

As a result, we are proposing (and have implemented) an RSS and ATOM extension that allows publishers to indicate the distribution restrictions of a feed. Setting the access restriction to 'deny' will indicate the feed should not be re-distributed. In Bloglines, we'll use this to prevent the display of the feed information or posts in search results or any other public venue. If other readers and aggregators use the information in the same way, and publishers of feeds, including services that let users create feeds, implement this standard, we could make significant progress toward making feeds truly safe for non-public information. We think that's a pretty cool idea.

The downside is that unless other RSS aggregators adopt the standard it will only work on and Marshall Kirkpatrick at TechCrunch said that no "formal agreements have been made yet with any other company, but it's hard to know why they wouldn't accept the idea with enthusiasm." Unfortunately, 100% acceptance by all search engines and websites sounds a little too optimistic. Some privacy is better than none but if you are publishing a public blog with or without a feed you should always expect that your content can be discovered.

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