robert hahn

a darn good web developer

July 10, 2006

To All the People Who Say "NO! CSS does NOT belong in feeds"…

Jeff Croft: “My personal stance, even as a CSS advocate and an author of a forthcoming CSS book, is that CSS has no place in RSS.”

The quality of responses in this thread is, well, pretty bad. Here’s a list of reasons culled from the comments:

Where were you people when Gopher was fighting for marketshare? Gopher stood for exactly the things all of you are demanding of RSS - content without style, limited interaction (and interactivity), and no ads. If it was structured content you wanted (which, honestly, is a laughable stance to take since most people in 1990-1995 haven’t even heard of structured content), I’m sure you would write a Gopher client that added such support.

As the number of comments on Jeff’s blog got higher, I became convinced of the following:

  1. that CSS or XSLT be permitted, but only through the xml-stylesheet tag I mentioned above (IMHO, no inline stylesheets allowed)
  2. that aggregators are free to either support that tag or not, and that you have the freedom to choose your favourite aggregator on that basis. If stylesheets are not supported, then, speaking for myself, fine. I honestly don’t care.
  3. that if aggregators do support linked stylesheets, then, just like browsers, allow the end user to enable/disable/overwrite it at will, so you can still have your cake to eat. In the meantime, I’ll make good use of that support.

Is that not a reasonable middle ground? It doesn’t quite answer the question: “Does it belong” - it just moves it to the level where it should be - on a feed-by-feed basis. For your feeds, the answer is no. For mine? I haven’t decided yet, but probably yes. It’s certainly something I’d like to have at my disposal.

I believe that at the hands of a good designer, you could have stylesheets for feeds that are so attractive to look at, you’ll enjoy that good content even more! You would take that ability away from them? That is an outrageous notion!

I’ve been following the comments on Jeff’s site because I’m waiting for someone to come up with a compelling reason why it’s bad for providers to link CSS to their feed. I don’t think anyone can come up with a good reason simply because CSS is the tool that enables the separation of design from content, and since that design is, well, separate then you-the-subscriber are free to ignore it at will.

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Robert Hahn.
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