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Feeds or Subscriptions?

PulpFiction used the term "subscriptions" to refer to things. I got into a conversation with someone recently about whether or not "Feed" would have been a better choice. While "Feed" is certainly shorter, I see it as both better and worse than "Subscription."

Pros for "Feed" / Cons for "Subscription"

  • Shorter name would fit more easily in toolbars menu items, etc.
  • A lot of websites seem to prefer calling these things "feeds" over "subscriptions."
  • feedicons.com isn't called "subscriptionicons.com." 🙂

Cons for "Feed" / Pros for "Subscription"

  • "Subscribe" and "subscription" go together. You don't "feed" on anything, nor do you munch, nibble, eat, or snack.
  • Technically, "Edit Feed" is incorrect. The publisher does that. You're editing your settings that relate to a feed to which you've subscribed.
  • "Subscribing" fit the mental model PulpFiction used: that feeds were like mailing lists to which you were subscribed and the individual articles like individual emails from a number of mailing lists.

What do you think? Which do you prefer? Please give it some thought - don't just say "I call them feeds" or "I like subscriptions." Perhaps you'll change your own mind if you give it some thought. I may be on the verge of changing my mind. The answers you provide may help.

11 Responses to "Feeds or Subscriptions?"

  1. I think "subscription" fits better. I tried to explain RSS/Atom technology to my mother the other day, and I found myself trying to use the word "feed" - it didn't work. "Subscription" does a better job, for someone not familiar with RSS/Atom technology.

    I'm used to "feed", but I'm sure I could adjust if the majority of the industry changed, too.

  2. A feed is a thing. It's a published news feed, full of information. To access that feed, you subscribe to it. Now you have a subscription to a news feed.

    When you list the items, you're listing the processed news feeds. When you edit how you access those feeds, then you're altering your subscription to the feed.

    So, both. I would use feed when referring to the content and subscription when referring to how I receive the content.

  3. Yeah, I like Adam's explanation. "Feed" is like "magazine:" something to which you subscribe, receive new content regularly (well, hopefully it's regular), and can unsubscribe from at any time. So "feed" vs. "description" definitely depends on context.

  4. Exactly. "I read 120 subscriptions" sounds dopey - "I read 120 feeds" so, (The more factually correct "I read about every, oh, eight? article brought to my attention by some news reader that checks 120 feeds for web sites every now and then at my request" is a bit long.)

  5. I am a big believer in keeping this whole 'feed' thing in the realm of what people might be used to in their normal lives. Feeds or 'News Feeds' does not mean that much to normal people, however, as Adam pointed out, 'subscribing to a news feed' seems to make sense.

    There is a tendancy to simplify things down too much with regard to RSS/Feeds/Subscriptions. For example if you look at the links on this page to subscribe to the two feeds available, if one didn't know what that icon is it would not make any sense. Personally I think there is nothing wrong with "Subscribe to this website" other than its a little long, but then what is really wrong with plain textual descriptions anyway?

  6. When I see "subscription" I think junk emails.

  7. I've always gone with Feed for the noun, and Subscribe as the verb. I subscribe to feeds, and I edit subscriptions to feeds, not the feeds themselves. I don't think this breaks any established meanings for these two words, as the subscription is exactly the same as a magazine subscription (less fees): I get the content when the publisher sends it out.

  8. Dennis said on December 20, 2006:

    When I see "subscription" I think junk emails.

    No, those you don't subscribe to. 😉

  9. I'll go with the same as Adam. I subscribe to feeds and read feeds, but edits the subscriptions.

  10. To me, a feed is continuous - a video feed, a paper feed for a printer, etc. A subscription is more discrete, usually something updated daily, weekly, monthly, etc. While most sites may only update daily, monthly, etc., the feeds (RSS, Atom, etc.) can be updated almost constantly.

    So I subscribe, or maybe better, "pull down", a feed for a site.

  11. Days late, but I prefer feed. I find most of what I read food for the brain. It may be mostly made of sugar, but it's still food. Add to that Peter's comment about the continuous nature of another defintion of feed, and it makes sense to my brain.


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