The many feed icons of Microsoft

Lots of people assume that Microsoft runs as a single entity. That we are lock step going in one direction. The truth is often messier. We're actually more like 100 companies all under the same roof. That messiness is showing up in the RSS icons we're using.

The IE team uses the same icon the Firefox team does.
The Windows Marketplace team tries to confuse all of us and uses both the Firefox icon, and the Orange XML icon that Dave Winer would like the industry to use. Just for added confusion they add the "My MSN" subscription button. (By the way, Windows Marketplace rocks other than its confusion on which feed icon to use).
The Channel 9 team uses the orange XML icon.
The On10.net team uses the Firefox icon with the word "subscribe" added on.
The new Port 25 open source site (opened just yesterday) uses an orange button with the letters "RSS" on them instead of XML.
Our employee blogs on MSDN don't even try to use an icon, instead just have the word "RSS" in text.
MSNBC uses the orange XML icon.
Microsoft's site for the press uses an orange icon with RSS along with the word "subscriptions."
MSDN, the site for developers, uses an orange "RSS" icon.
MSN Spaces, blogs for people like Maryam, my wife, doesn't use any icon, rather has the words "Subscribe to RSS feed."
The Expo Live team (classified ads) uses an orange "RSS" icon.

Whew, this certainly isn't a good user experience. What do you think? Which way do you want Microsoft to go? Why?

Update: the next version of Outlook and Sharepoint will use the Firefox icon.

Comments

  1. well, personally I prefer the orange RSS icon & the FireFox icon is my second preference. The reason being that the orange RSS icon looks sensible, for someone who’s new to feeds & syndication, if he sees “RSS” then he’ll do the sensible thing to search for the meaning it. Searching “XML” on the other hand wouldn’t give him any desirable results, & an icon without text(like the FireFox one) won’t make sense to a first timer either, hence its my second preference!!

    but it sure is funny how different icons are being used at Microsoft by different teams!! :D

  2. well, personally I prefer the orange RSS icon & the FireFox icon is my second preference. The reason being that the orange RSS icon looks sensible, for someone who’s new to feeds & syndication, if he sees “RSS” then he’ll do the sensible thing to search for the meaning it. Searching “XML” on the other hand wouldn’t give him any desirable results, & an icon without text(like the FireFox one) won’t make sense to a first timer either, hence its my second preference!!

    but it sure is funny how different icons are being used at Microsoft by different teams!! :D

  3. well, personally I prefer the orange RSS icon & the FireFox icon is my second preference. The reason being that the orange RSS icon looks sensible, for someone who’s new to feeds & syndication, if he sees “RSS” then he’ll do the sensible thing to search for the meaning it. Searching “XML” on the other hand wouldn’t give him any desirable results, & an icon without text(like the FireFox one) won’t make sense to a first timer either, hence its my second preference!!

    but it sure is funny how different icons are being used at Microsoft by different teams!! :D

  4. The problem with the RSS icon is if a team decides to use Atom as its feed format.

    Also, picture icons work better according to our usability research (not done on this topic, but on other software. That’s why most things you see in Windows and Office are now pictures and not letters).

  5. The problem with the RSS icon is if a team decides to use Atom as its feed format.

    Also, picture icons work better according to our usability research (not done on this topic, but on other software. That’s why most things you see in Windows and Office are now pictures and not letters).

  6. The problem with the RSS icon is if a team decides to use Atom as its feed format.

    Also, picture icons work better according to our usability research (not done on this topic, but on other software. That’s why most things you see in Windows and Office are now pictures and not letters).

  7. I like the icon my company uses: http://www.apc.com/

    Robert: That’s not a problem with RSS icons. An “RSS” icon denotes exactly what it is, an RSS feed. Atom and RSS feeds are not interchangable and you give a user a tremendously bad user experience if you pretend they are. Just because some feed readers can read both doesn’t mean all can. It’d be like pretending a Word file is a PDF is a text file.

    In short, if not all Microsoft teams are using the same format, they shouldn’t have the same icon. They should have icons that tell people what they are.

  8. I like the icon my company uses: http://www.apc.com/

    Robert: That’s not a problem with RSS icons. An “RSS” icon denotes exactly what it is, an RSS feed. Atom and RSS feeds are not interchangable and you give a user a tremendously bad user experience if you pretend they are. Just because some feed readers can read both doesn’t mean all can. It’d be like pretending a Word file is a PDF is a text file.

    In short, if not all Microsoft teams are using the same format, they shouldn’t have the same icon. They should have icons that tell people what they are.

  9. I like the icon my company uses: http://www.apc.com/

    Robert: That’s not a problem with RSS icons. An “RSS” icon denotes exactly what it is, an RSS feed. Atom and RSS feeds are not interchangable and you give a user a tremendously bad user experience if you pretend they are. Just because some feed readers can read both doesn’t mean all can. It’d be like pretending a Word file is a PDF is a text file.

    In short, if not all Microsoft teams are using the same format, they shouldn’t have the same icon. They should have icons that tell people what they are.

  10. Microsoft should standardise on what they’re putting into Internet Explorer, as that’s the icon that’s going to get seen by the most eyeballs, and it also helps that it’s the feed icon for Firefox, too. It will minimise user confusion.

  11. Microsoft should standardise on what they’re putting into Internet Explorer, as that’s the icon that’s going to get seen by the most eyeballs, and it also helps that it’s the feed icon for Firefox, too. It will minimise user confusion.

  12. Microsoft should standardise on what they’re putting into Internet Explorer, as that’s the icon that’s going to get seen by the most eyeballs, and it also helps that it’s the feed icon for Firefox, too. It will minimise user confusion.

  13. [...] Diversity is better than uniformity Scoble asks “Which way do you want Microsoft to go? Why?”. And it is nothing less strategic as the way how RSS feeds are respresnted on Microsoft sites. I think we need corporate identity but not uniformity. A whole different story. Robert, what you describe as “messiness” is part of our creative culture. You guys over at Channel 9 are a perfect example for our “messy”  creativity and the amount of freedom we have to do our job the way we want. Well done! Let’s keep it that way. BTW, I very much agree with what you said in one of your earlier posts about the different names for different services Microsoft offers (MSN Search vs. Office Live vs. …). Sorry but I’m too messy to find the post to link to it. Next thing you complain about Microsofties not wearing the same uniform. Have you ever worked for a big financial institution or alike. Guess not. Even Microsoft is maturing and in this high speed process we are already losing enough of our oh so important “messiness”. Now I feel better. Thanks Robert. Filed Under: Random [...]

  14. Personally, I think it will be a non-issue over time as all browsers get into supporting the auto-discovery of feeds. Currently, Firefox and IE 7 both do it and both use the same icon and IMHO, that’s the important part. I also noticed Opera supports auto-discovery too, but doesn’t use the same icon. I hope they switch. Don’t have Safari in front of me at the moment, so I don’t know about them.

  15. Personally, I think it will be a non-issue over time as all browsers get into supporting the auto-discovery of feeds. Currently, Firefox and IE 7 both do it and both use the same icon and IMHO, that’s the important part. I also noticed Opera supports auto-discovery too, but doesn’t use the same icon. I hope they switch. Don’t have Safari in front of me at the moment, so I don’t know about them.

  16. Personally, I think it will be a non-issue over time as all browsers get into supporting the auto-discovery of feeds. Currently, Firefox and IE 7 both do it and both use the same icon and IMHO, that’s the important part. I also noticed Opera supports auto-discovery too, but doesn’t use the same icon. I hope they switch. Don’t have Safari in front of me at the moment, so I don’t know about them.

  17. The firefox icon doesn’t scale well. The very small versions don’t convey the right message.
    But its been staring back at me from my browser for a few years now. I’m used to it.
    Don’t change it unless you have more to ‘say’ other than just “feed” or “subscribe” or “rss” ,etc

    Atleast orange seems to be the standard for most feeds, alerts, subscriptions, etc :)

  18. The firefox icon doesn’t scale well. The very small versions don’t convey the right message.
    But its been staring back at me from my browser for a few years now. I’m used to it.
    Don’t change it unless you have more to ‘say’ other than just “feed” or “subscribe” or “rss” ,etc

    Atleast orange seems to be the standard for most feeds, alerts, subscriptions, etc :)

  19. I like the common feed icon aka the FireFox Icon.

    Richard Brownell brings up a good point with RSS buttons pointing to Atom feeds: “It’d be like pretending a Word file is a PDF is a text file.”

    Using the common feed icon makes more sense when dealing with software internationalization issues.

    When the common feed icon is used on a site (as opposed to on the location bar) I prefer that some text such as Subscribe is next to the icon or part of the link to the feed.

  20. I like the common feed icon aka the FireFox Icon.

    Richard Brownell brings up a good point with RSS buttons pointing to Atom feeds: “It’d be like pretending a Word file is a PDF is a text file.”

    Using the common feed icon makes more sense when dealing with software internationalization issues.

    When the common feed icon is used on a site (as opposed to on the location bar) I prefer that some text such as Subscribe is next to the icon or part of the link to the feed.

  21. I don’t freaking care! Choose one. It doesn’t matter.

    Having said that, text beats little squigglies any day.

  22. I don’t freaking care! Choose one. It doesn’t matter.

    Having said that, text beats little squigglies any day.

  23. Miles: I disagree. I find I can see the icon a lot faster than I can see just a text link like on my wife’s page.

    It probably doesn’t matter longterm, though, since most of the feed aggregators I’ve used lately automatically detect the feed on the page.

  24. Miles: I disagree. I find I can see the icon a lot faster than I can see just a text link like on my wife’s page.

    It probably doesn’t matter longterm, though, since most of the feed aggregators I’ve used lately automatically detect the feed on the page.

  25. The truth is often messier.

    You ain’t kidding there. If you can’t even standardize on a stupid little icon, really amazing how you guys get anything done at all. Call it “creative freedom” but it’s really just chaos with a lack of corporate governance, with things run by the most powerful political fiefdoms of the given moment.

  26. The truth is often messier.

    You ain’t kidding there. If you can’t even standardize on a stupid little icon, really amazing how you guys get anything done at all. Call it “creative freedom” but it’s really just chaos with a lack of corporate governance, with things run by the most powerful political fiefdoms of the given moment.

  27. They’re all horrible. I know what they mean and I use them, but Microsoft is built for mainstream and as such needs to use something that communicates the message more clearly to the average internet user. RSS hasn’t spread to a wider audience because to the general public RSS, XML, and a little orange icon don’t mean anything. It’s not just Microsoft, this is a much larger problem, but who better than the company that really brought the pc to mainstream to do the same with RSS. I’ve personally had enough of people asking ‘why isn’t rss mainstream?’ then presenting the user with an unidentifiable logo.

  28. They’re all horrible. I know what they mean and I use them, but Microsoft is built for mainstream and as such needs to use something that communicates the message more clearly to the average internet user. RSS hasn’t spread to a wider audience because to the general public RSS, XML, and a little orange icon don’t mean anything. It’s not just Microsoft, this is a much larger problem, but who better than the company that really brought the pc to mainstream to do the same with RSS. I’ve personally had enough of people asking ‘why isn’t rss mainstream?’ then presenting the user with an unidentifiable logo.

  29. at this point, it’s a minor issue. as long as the people USING the applications know what’s going on, it’s all good. The problem is, no one’s come up with a really good short name yet

  30. at this point, it’s a minor issue. as long as the people USING the applications know what’s going on, it’s all good. The problem is, no one’s come up with a really good short name yet

  31. Robert,

    You can find it faster because you are looking for it. If you don’t know what it is, you have no clue. I think something like “Feed” or even “XML” is preferable to a squiggle. If it says Feed and I’m curious, I can at least google at it. How do you google a squiggle?

    I’m generally anti-icon because they don’t help unless there are just a small number of really obvious ones. My pet peeve this month is the floppy disc icon that’s used on most icons to save. When’s the last time you used an actual floppy to save your work?

    Anyway, as someone stated above, the real answer is to have browsers find the feeds for you. My wife is an avid blog reader and I can’t get her interested in feeds.

  32. Robert,

    You can find it faster because you are looking for it. If you don’t know what it is, you have no clue. I think something like “Feed” or even “XML” is preferable to a squiggle. If it says Feed and I’m curious, I can at least google at it. How do you google a squiggle?

    I’m generally anti-icon because they don’t help unless there are just a small number of really obvious ones. My pet peeve this month is the floppy disc icon that’s used on most icons to save. When’s the last time you used an actual floppy to save your work?

    Anyway, as someone stated above, the real answer is to have browsers find the feeds for you. My wife is an avid blog reader and I can’t get her interested in feeds.

  33. Miles: but that’s the whole point. I’m an RSS user. That icon is being put there for me. To get a non user to use RSS then there should be a link next to the icon that says “what is this?”

    The BBC does this the best, by the way.

  34. Miles: but that’s the whole point. I’m an RSS user. That icon is being put there for me. To get a non user to use RSS then there should be a link next to the icon that says “what is this?”

    The BBC does this the best, by the way.

  35. after how much good will microsoft gained when they adopted mozilla’s icon, it would be a shame to see them go backwards.
    i think the my msn button is okay, but it needs to be complimented by a button for every other reader that people don’t know is a reader (my yahoo!, google, etc.) (this is why i use feedburner, it keeps all those ugly buttons with the feed itself).

  36. after how much good will microsoft gained when they adopted mozilla’s icon, it would be a shame to see them go backwards.
    i think the my msn button is okay, but it needs to be complimented by a button for every other reader that people don’t know is a reader (my yahoo!, google, etc.) (this is why i use feedburner, it keeps all those ugly buttons with the feed itself).

  37. My choice definately is orange icon used by Firefox and MSIE (AFAIK it also will be used in future versions of Opera browser). It is also used in blog service I am developing.

    If choosing from other icons, “RSS” or “Atom” is definately better than “XML”, because abbrevation XML itself hasn’t anything to do with syndication. Not only site feeds are based on XML. And that’s confusing for many people. An example. My friend runs PHP-Nuke powered site, and PHP-Nuke has a feature to display RSS feeds as blocks on sidebars. But Nuke names them as “XML feeds”. In Latvia you can get in XML format official currency exchange rates in XML format. But of course, it isn’t RSS nor Atom. And belive or not, he was very surprised, that he cannot display currency exchange rates on site using PHP-Nuke’s XML feed feature. :)

  38. My choice definately is orange icon used by Firefox and MSIE (AFAIK it also will be used in future versions of Opera browser). It is also used in blog service I am developing.

    If choosing from other icons, “RSS” or “Atom” is definately better than “XML”, because abbrevation XML itself hasn’t anything to do with syndication. Not only site feeds are based on XML. And that’s confusing for many people. An example. My friend runs PHP-Nuke powered site, and PHP-Nuke has a feature to display RSS feeds as blocks on sidebars. But Nuke names them as “XML feeds”. In Latvia you can get in XML format official currency exchange rates in XML format. But of course, it isn’t RSS nor Atom. And belive or not, he was very surprised, that he cannot display currency exchange rates on site using PHP-Nuke’s XML feed feature. :)

  39. pick a small icon, best for the user is the same one everywhere, move towards sth like an industry standard. but always add at least “subscribe” in words. we rss-readers are just so far away from all the newcomers, they do not understand what this is all about. here in europe i am thinking about delivering my blog-feed via stupid old email because people don’t use and understand rss. okay, no, i won’t misuse email for this one.

  40. pick a small icon, best for the user is the same one everywhere, move towards sth like an industry standard. but always add at least “subscribe” in words. we rss-readers are just so far away from all the newcomers, they do not understand what this is all about. here in europe i am thinking about delivering my blog-feed via stupid old email because people don’t use and understand rss. okay, no, i won’t misuse email for this one.

  41. [...] Historically there have been nearly as many feed icons as feeds themselves, from Dave Winer’s XML icon to the various RSS and ATOM icons that you can find on almost any blog or application. Robert Scoble recently blogged about the various feed icons that Microsoft uses. Luckily, it seems as if a standard icon is finally emerging. [...]

  42. [...] Historically there have been nearly as many feed icons as feeds themselves, from Dave Winer’s XML icon to the various RSS and ATOM icons that you can find on almost any blog or application. Robert Scoble recently blogged about the various feed icons that Microsoft uses. Luckily, it seems as if a standard icon is finally emerging. [...]