Automatic feed unsubscibe

Dave Winer asks about automatic unsubscribing from a feed, and it’s an interesting question. If a feed is no longer updated, how should the publisher tell aggregators to unsubscribe from it? I think the simplest solution is for the server to return HTTP status code 410, as recommended here and here. An aggregator that receives a 410 for a specific feed should then automatically unsubscribe from it.

This will be supported in the next build of FeedDemon, and I believe it’s already supported by several other aggregators. In FeedDemon’s case, the user will be prompted to unsubscribe, since automatically unsubscribing would remove the feed from FeedDemon’s cache – losing the user’s history of that feed’s postings. If the user chooses not to unsubscribe, FeedDemon will disable updating for that feed.

9 thoughts on “Automatic feed unsubscibe

  1. Nick,
    How would someone tell the Webserver to return a 410? I looked on my web host and I did not notice any way to flag that the web server should return a 410. Most web servers would return a 404 if the file is not found. Should you support this also?

  2. 404 is supported in a different way. The aggregator should come back to look if the file is still there every day or every week. (Not every hour.)
    410 can be specified in a .htaccess file: redirect gone /atom
    I guess Dave wants some XML solution again, just like last time when he wanted XML for redirecting feeds instead of 301.

  3. Mike, it really depends on your server and/or choice of server-side language as to how to return a 410. With ASP, for example, you can simply use:
    Response.Status = “410 Gone”
    With PHP, you could use:
    header(“Status: 410 Gone”);
    A 404 is a different situation. Status 404 means the resource can’t be found, but unlike 410, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s permanently gone.

  4. Is there a way to tell a feed reader that an RSS feed´s location has changed? Does FeedDemon automatically update the feed´s URl if I send a “301 Move Permanently” header?

  5. > the user will be prompted to unsubscribe
    > FeedDemon will turn off automatic updating for that feed.
    If the feed has gone it would also be good if it was no longer included in manual updates (Shift+F5). Also, if FeedDemon is running unattended in the background it might cause problems if it got stuck at a dialog asking the user to unsubscribe.
    For these reasons, one idea would be for the feed to remain in the Channel Group but have a flag that marked it as unsubscribed. This could possibly be indicated to the user by dimming the feed’s icon or something like that.

  6. Michael, this is exactly what I plan to do. Regardless of whether you choose to unsubscribe from a feed, any feed that returns a 410 will automatically appear grayed out in FeedDemon’s channel bar, and it will never be updated again even if the user performs a manual update.

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