OK, That’s Moderately Useless (Photocasting and Non-Safari RSS Readers)

So here’s the letdown part of the Apple Product Cycle. One of the coolest features the Steve introduced on Tuesday was “Photocasting,” or basically RSS feed creation for photos using RSS 2 enclosures, integrated deeply into iPhoto using .Mac.

The concept is simple: you get a collection of photos, say “Photocast these”, and it uploads them to a server and gives you a URL you can pass around to your friends. If they have iPhoto 6 or Safari 2.0, they can get a feed of your photos that they can view, with links to the full-size originals. Since it’s a standard, then if they don’t have those apps, they can choose any RSS reader that supports enclosures, including the ever-popular Firefox 1.5 to view your stream. So the slickest creation and consumption is on a Mac, but you can share with people who haven’t yet seen the light.

Or Can You?

Turns out every other reader I’ve tested it in, or that any Windows or Linux user I know has tested it in, has gotten a page that looks like this:


Clearly, Apple is sniffing the User Agent string that all browsers and RSS readers create and rejecting any that don’t say “WebKit” (their core HTML reading technology that all Apple apps use). Even other Mac-based ones I’ve tested, like the open source FireAnt, don’t work. [Update: Turns out FireAnt only supports video playback, not photos, so this wouldn’t have worked anyway. But it did give an error claiming the feed was invalid with the original URL.]

I really hope this is an oversight on Apple’s part, but it’s kind of embarrassing, trying to say how cool this stuff is and how nice it is when somebody plays by the rules, when they sabotage those very words in an effort to prevent people with an old RSS reader from using the service.

Lame, guys, hella lame.

Update: I’ve now found a workaround, with some caveats. As long as you’re not using Firefox to read RSS feeds, you can view my Dominica photos at http://web.mac.com/sandysmith/iPhoto/dominicaselect/index.rss.

Read on if you are having this problem with iPhoto or use Firefox and want an explanation why the defaults haven’t worked for you:

While the URL produced by iPhoto’s “Announcement” email does nothing for non-Mac OS X 10.4 (Tiger) users, the error it produces if you attempt to view it in Safari actually does contain a workable URL that doesn’t block other readers. I just noticed it when reviewing my screencap above.

Simply replace photocast.mac.com with web.mac.com and the URL will work–with one gigantic exception.

Firefox. Yes, the geniuses at Apple are serving an index.rss file as application/octet-stream instead of, say text/xml, so Firefox thinks it’s a binary file. Argh.

The good news is I was able to get it working in Shrook, my regular RSS reader. Hopefully Bloglines will also be similarly forgiving, as will FeedDemon or other popular Windows readers.

Obviously there are a lot of server-side things Apple needs to do. For one, they could do their user-agent sniffing and provide non Safari-2.0-based RSS readers with a redirect to the web.mac.com URL, so readers that support redirection could seamlessly consume the feed. They also need to test it in Firefox, since a lot of Windows and Linux users who know Mac people are likely to be using that for their browsing and RSS reading.

But that hopefully will get you reading my feed.

5 thoughts on “OK, That’s Moderately Useless (Photocasting and Non-Safari RSS Readers)

  1. And actually, I’m having a little trouble with the RSS feed for this site on Firefox 1.5. It still says that the most recent post in your blog is the “Dominica Panorama” post. So go figure.


  2. Well, IE 6 can’t handle RSS (or CSS, but that’s another story), so that’s to be expected–you will need something that supports enclosures. Presumably FeedDemon will on Windows. I have confirmed that Bloglines does work, so if you want to use a web-based too, that’s the way to go.


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