An XML feed is a standardized data format that is used to transmit content from a website or application in a structured and machine-readable manner. XML stands for 'Extensible Markup Language' and describes a text-based, extensible markup language. It is thus derived from parts of HTML and SGML and is used to represent hierarchical, structured data.
Use of XML feeds
XML feeds are used in various fields. The most common areas of application are:
- RSS feeds: These use the XML format to distribute news or blog posts. Interested readers can subscribe to such a feed and automatically receive news about new content. Typical applications here are news websites, blogs or podcasts.
- Product Data Feeds: Online retailers use XML feeds to publish their products in shopping portals such as Google Shopping or Amazon Marketplace. The relevant product data such as name, price or image URLs are transmitted to the partner platform via the feed.
- Sitemap feeds: These feeds are used to explain the structure of a website to a search engine (e.g. Google) and to inform it about new or updated content. An XML sitemap is usually structured according to the Google sitemap standards and is supported by the most common search engines.
Advantages of XML feeds
XML feeds offer several advantages for providing and processing structured data:
- Platform independence: XML files can be processed on different operating systems and in different programming languages.
- Scalability: The structure of XML feeds allows easy extension without changing the existing elements.
- Automated processing: Thanks to the standardized format, XML feeds can be easily read by computers and applications, allowing automatic updating and distribution of content.
- Understandable structure: Although machine-readable, the clear hierarchical structure of XML feeds also allows for easy human understanding of the data presented.
XML feed creation
To create an XML feed, the content of the web page or application must be formatted according to the XML structure. For some common content management systems (CMS) such as WordPress, plugins exist that can automatically generate XML feeds. Alternatively, an XML feed can also be generated manually by structuring the data according to the XML syntax and the respective requirements of the application (e.g. RSS or product data).