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I am preparing a website and noticed that although the source code contains RSS autodiscovery URL, i.e. something like

<link rel="alternate" type="application/rss+xml" href="/rss.xml">

none of the three main browsers actually displays a RSS icon anywhere. I am not sure when this feature went away but few versions back I am quite certain that IE, Firefox and Chrome used to display an orange icon somewhere in the address bar. (Edit: Actually, Chrome never had this functionality, it doesn't recognize RSS at all without an extension.)

Is including an orange icon (or something like that) in the webpage the only certain way how to provide RSS feeds these days?

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I'm so sad that the RSS button disappeared from FF. I used to use it a lot ! An extension is mandatory now :( –  Julien N Mar 2 '12 at 17:35
    
It's not, you can click the favicon > More information > Feeds to get a list of auto-discovery links. –  Borek Mar 2 '12 at 21:13
    
I went out on a limb and edited the title for 2013 and beyond. I think this tag might be good for SEO but I bet only .001% of real people use it. The accepted answer needs work too, Google Reader is dead! –  PJ Brunet Aug 27 '13 at 16:07
    
It still works with Feedly, which has become one of the most popular Google Reader replacements. Also, there's a "subscribe" toolbar button in Firefox that replaces the functionality of the icon, but it is not shown by default. (See this link for instructions.) –  David Millar Sep 4 '13 at 19:05
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4 Answers

up vote 11 down vote accepted

Auto-discovery still works for most feed-readers, for instance with Google Reader I just tested out this page and plugged the exact URL in the subscribe text input. It then automatically subscribed to the comments for this question.

So no, providing an image with a link is just a visual way of letting users know that there's an RSS feed available if they're using a browser that doesn't do it for them. The auto-discovery route via code should still be there whenever possible.

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It's such a small amount of data on each page request I include both the link and something on the page to allow users to subscribe on browsers that don't support it.

FYI, it's never been part of Chrome. I love Chrome except for the fact I sometimes have to manually find this tag in the HTML of the page.

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You're right about Chrome, there is an extension for RSS but nothing built-in. –  Borek Feb 28 '12 at 19:34
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To add to the answer, as was pointed out, Chrome/Chromium has an extension that adds the RSS orange box when the feed is auto-discovered on the page. The extension was written by Google so it may just be a design choice to separate that functionality from the browser and may show that they still take it seriously enough.

The button is also available in Firefox though not in the starting setup it seems. You can right click on a toolbar (either the Navigation bar above or the Addon bar below) hit "Customize" and drag the RSS auto-discovery bar onto the toolbar and it will light up whenever a feed is discovered.

I still think it's worth it because presence of the button alerts the user that the site data is available in an alternate more quick content consumable way (even if they don't use the browser to do so). It's also handy for sites where there is a lot going on on the page which makes the user want to filter just the content he or she wants from it.

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Something that nobody mentioned is that people who actually subscribe to RSS feeds may add a RSS button to their browser: it let's people know that a site has an RSS feed.

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