RSS Good Practices: Provide Alternate Content When Embedding Video

Lately I’ve noticed a lot of feeds that contain embedded videos which fail to provide alternate content for readers who can’t view the videos.  For example, a number of feeds use the HTML tag to embed video objects but neglect to include <noembed> sections.  The end result is a less-than-optimal experience for many people, including:

  1. Users of Windows-based feed readers such as FeedDemon which employ Internet Explorer’s local zone lockdown for security (which prevents embedded objects from displaying)
  2. Users of Internet Explorer 7 (the feed view in IE7 uses a similar security lockdown which prevents embedded videos from playing)
  3. Users of Web-based feed readers who have tightened their browser’s security

If nothing else, simply add a <noembed> section which links to the actual video, as this example demonstrates: 

<item>
  <title>Embedded Video Example</title>
  <description>
      <![CDATA[
        <noembed><a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mkj4Wm6INFY">Click here to view video</a></noembed>]]>
  </description>
</item>

A more user-friendly solution would be to include a <noembed> section that contains a thumbnail image of the video which links to the actual video.

If you’d like more details on embedding video objects, check out this article from A List Apart.

6 thoughts on “RSS Good Practices: Provide Alternate Content When Embedding Video

  1. Thanks for the pointers. I’d like to do this for my LiveJournal feed, but their HTML cleaner removes the noembed section. I’ve just sent a support request to them to add this support to their system.

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  2. I suffer from this constantly in FeedDemon. A post will say something like “oh my god, that is the funniest thing ever” and I’ll have no idea what he’s talking about because the embedded YouTube link doesn’t show up as anything but whitespace.
    So FeedDemon feature request: A simple “” that I can see and at least click through to view.

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  3. Nick,
    You write: “A more user-friendly solution would be to include a section that contains a thumbnail image of the video which links to the actual video.”
    Include it where?
    I use MovableType. MT generates my feed by way of a template; the template uses a special MT tag to reiterate the blog’s content. It is simply not possible — it’s not an option — for me to edit this template to alter my blog’s content.
    I can edit the template’s output file, and I have. Where video appears, I’ve edited the output file to include a message like this one: “A YOUTUBE VIDEO APPEARS HERE. WATCH.,” where WATCH is a link to the video. But for reasons I know not, this message doesn’t get picked up by feed readers, including FeedDemon.
    Is this clear as mud?
    P.S. I don’t know whether it makes any difference, but I do run my feed through FeedBurner. And FeedBurner uses the URL of my output file. But again, any manual edits I make to that file don’t get picked up.
    Thoughts?

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  4. Paul, I’m not a MovableType user, but I’m able to add a noembed section in TypePad, so I have to assume it’s possible in MT as well. Any MT gurus know the answer to this one?

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