In Defense of the RSS Feed for Comics
By Hervé St-Louis
April 5, 2016 - 15:30

Since starting the Johnny Bullet comic strip, I’ve begun reading many more web comics than before to the extent that I read more of them than print or digital comics. It’s been an interesting transition from one of those comic book store devotee to getting most of my comics from individual creators online. One technology has helped make this transition possible. It’s the RSS feed.

RSS, also known as Rich Site Summary or Really Simple Syndication is an open format developed at Netscape and incorporating many elements of a competing format developed by iconoclast Dave Winer in 1999. The format has been quickly adopted by Web publishers who wanted to syndicate summaries of their contents so they could reach potential readers when re-posted by third parties. RSS feeds are XLM documents whose format has been improved many times and for a while supported by Apple, Google, and Facebook.

Major technology companies have scaled down on their support for RSS in favour of other solutions, most which can be summarized as to post original contents directly on their platforms. Regardless, one of the reasons that Web comics continue to thrive is because of RSS. RSS allows any user to subscribe to a feed using a reader of their choice. Every time a publisher makes an update on their site, like a new blog post, a new web comic strip, a new article, or even when a visitor posts a new comment, subscribers receive new push notifications from the publisher’s site through their RSS readers.

This notification includes a summary of the article, such as its title, images, and of course, links where the subscriber can read the whole article, comic, or comment. Many Web comic publishing platforms and communities include RSS feeds as options for visitors.

Good email clients such as Mozilla Thunderbird allow users to subscribe to RSS feeds and receive emails every time a cartoonist has published a new comic page to their Web comic. Desktop versions of Microsoft Outlook still support RSS feeds, similarly to Thunderbird. Currently, I am registered for over 30 comics. I am not a binge reader. I like to pace my reading. Every morning, many of the cartoonists that I follow will update their comics, and I can casually read their new pages when I can spare the time.

Some cartoonists update their comics sporadically. Others maintain a tight schedule. But with RSS, it doesn’t matter. As a comic reader, I’m always aware of the latest comics they produce. Often, I will accumulate many comics in a row because of lack of time. But it doesn’t matter. I can binge read many whenever I can without even having to remember the URL of the many comics I am a fan of.

ComicBookBin itself makes extensive use of RSS. We have a generic RSS feed for the entire site. We also have one dedicated to all the Web comics that other contributors and I publish here. Then, there are comic specific RSS feeds for fans of just these comics. Currently, The Slip by Cody Stewart and Rafael Desquitado have their own dedicated RSS feed. Johnny Bullet, my comic of course has its own feeds. One feed is for the English version of Johnny Bullet. The other is of course for the French version of Johnny Bullet. The mobile-formatted version of Johnny Bullet also has its own RSS feed.

I am happy to report that the various RSS feeds at ComicBookBin are some of the most popular links here. I don’t count them in our trending, but many of you already know and enjoy the power of RSS and have subscribed to our various RSS feeds over the years. RSS feeds are the easiest way to keep abreast of updates from a Web comic, a blog or a news site like ComicBookBin.

Here are a list of RSS feeds from ComicBookBin mentioned above that you can subscribe to.

ComicBookBin RSS (everything)

Web comics at ComicBookBin

The Slip

Johnny Bullet (English)

Johnny Bullet (French)

Johnny Bullet Mobile

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In Defense of the RSS Feed for Comics