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<item> Subelements: <link> vs <enclosure>

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I am confused about the use of the <link> and <enclosure> subelements of the <item> subelement. 

The difference between the <link> subelements of the <channel> and <item> elements appears clear, but the difference between the <link> and <enclosure> subelements of the <item> subelement are difficult to understand.  For example, if your RSS feed contained a long series of <item> subelements with each referring to a different podcast, why would you need both a <link> and <enclosure> for the same <item> subelement.

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If the link is an article that contains some form of media, then you would use both the link and the enclosure. Let's say there's a link to an article containing the written transcript of a podcast along with embedded audio, you would put the link to that page in the <link> tag and the reference to the audio file in the <enclosure> tag.

An RSS item probably should not directly reference a multimedia file, it should reference a web page that contains the file.

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Hi Ingolme,

If there were no <link> subelement for the <channel> element I could easily agree.  If, however, the media file -- in my case, a podcast -- is well presented and can stand alone, the <link> subelement of the <item> element would appear unnecessary.

What I currently have under consideration is a single webpage that achieves two tasks:  several methods of categorization and access for each posted podcast.  One method of categorization would be for the chronological order in which the podcasts appear.  Two to three additional categories would be created for different methods of categorizing the same content.  From each of these categories one could call up any of the podcasts in the same webpage -- say, with an iframe, include, or the like that contains a link to the podcast along with additional reference materials, a brief explanation of the podcast, and a forever changing image that would host an advertisement.

In addition to my own feed I plan to create other feeds for other podcast hosts.  As these other hosts generally permit images, I will include a link with each image to my own webpage.  When the link is clicked the aforementioned insert containing the desired podcast would automatically appear.

Although all RSS feeds require certain information some RSS feeds have their own namespace with a variety of optional elements -- the iTunes namespace, for example, as its own set of required elements.

In effect, I envision three different <link> elements:

1) <link> (channel) - Points to the webpage.

2) <link> (item) - Points to the webpage and calls up the insert.

3) <link> (image) - Points to the webpage, or points to the webpage and calls up the insert.

My concern, of course, is how to achieve the action "points to the webpage AND calls up the insert".

How would the link be designed?  Could I append a hash tag to the link that points to the website, for example.



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Some RSS readers may embed the podcast in the feed if you have an <enclosure> element, so I would suggest using both <link> and <enclosure> elements to point to the podcast.

The <link> element of the <channel> should link to a page where the channel resides, that is a collection of podcasts. The <link> of an <item> would link to an individual podcast. Ideally each podcast should have one page on your site, but if you just want to link to the MP3 I can't tell you if there are any restrictions on that.

Namespaces may give you more options, but the elements of each namespace will only work on the software that supports it, for example only iTunes may use the iTunes namespace elements.

Here's the official specification of RSS with a description of all the elements: https://cyber.harvard.edu/rss/rss.html

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I am not very fond of the link that you provided, as I find it both confusing and incomplete.  It is, however, where I began my own investigation several weeks ago.  Since then, I have been using what appears to me to be a better resource.  

OK. I believe that I have finally sorted the elements out.

1)     <link> (channel) - Points to the folder containing the items targeted in each <item> element.

2a)   <link> (item) and <emclosure> (item - Point to the most recent feed <item>, or alternatively

2b)   <link> (item) - Points to the most recent feed item,  and <enclosure> (item) points to a media file that accompanies the feed item.

3)     <link> (image) - Points to the webpage that provides a description of the channel as well as access to the individual items.

4)     <url>  (image) - Points to the image itself.

4)     <source> (item) - Points to the xml file that contains the actual feed -- namely, itself.

During my research I read that feeds for a website are typically found by entering the website's domain name followed by a feed folder.  Surely this path is not automatically generated.  Surely, this folder must be created by the webpage's host.  What exactly goes into this folder.  Is it the xml feed page, the podcasts, or both?  Are you familiar with this "common" practice?


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Many CMS will generate the feed link, but it's not created automatically by the browser or server. The feed URL should point to the XML file itself.

On your website you can add a <link> tag to indicate that there's a feed so that the RSS icon appears in the navigation bar:

<link href="... Feed URL ..." rel="alternate" type="application/rss+xml" title="Give a title to your feed">


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I have never looked for the presence of an RSS feed in my browser window before, but any form of additional, positive, free advertisement cannot hurt. Still, I am not sure that you have answered my question.  So, please let me try again.

If the <link> element that you just described were present on my webpage and the user typed the following in his browser search window


the feed link and, of course, the path to it would be revealed automatically.  Is this true?

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Just adding "/feed" to a URL won't show the feed. You have to manually put your feed XML in that URL and have your server send the correct content-type type header of application/rss+xml. Like I said, most content management systems will generate this link for you, but if your website isn't using a content management system or the one you're using doesn't have that feature then you will have to create the URL yourself.

I can't verify that it's a common practice to use "/feed" for the feed URL, but I know that the CMS I've been working with does that.

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I do not use a CMS, but am still a little unclear about what you mean when you write "and have your server send the correct content-type type header of application/rss+xml"

Also, I do not know, if I have asked this question before, but certainly I am still in doubt. The use of RSS and XML terminology is often undefined or loosely applied, and it has created enormous confusion for me.  So, please be further patient.

QUESTION:  Where does the XML/RSS file containing the <channel> and <item> elements go?

1)  Anywhere, so long as the file's elements point to the proper folders and files.

2)  In the folder with the items that are the content of the RSS feed.

3)  Any of several preferred locations, and it is good practice, but not necessary that the file and the content to which its elements point are in the same folder.



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The RSS file can go anywhere you want, you just have to tell people where to find it. As I mentioned earlier, you can tell browsers where to find a feed by putting a <link> tag in your HTML page. There's no real best practice as to where to place your RSS feed files. I think RSS feeds have to use absolute URLs in the <link> tags including protocol and domain name to point to the location of the files.

If you want a URL like "/feed" for your RSS feed you would have to use URL rewriting on the server, a regular URL would look like this instead: "/feed.xml" or "/feed.rss".

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