The mysterious textInput RSS field


The RSS 2.0 specification includes a provision for a channel-level textInput field:

textInput Specifies a text input box that can be displayed with the channel.

It includes four elements: title, description, name, and link. It looks like any other simple HTML form, though the spec cautions:

The purpose of the <textInput> element is something of a mystery. You can use it to specify a search engine box. Or to allow a reader to provide feedback. Most aggregators ignore it.

That last line has turned out not to be true, at least in practice. Perhaps owing to its obscurity, most parsers seem to choke or render incorrectly upon reaching it in a feed.

I would know, because I re-implemented it on my own feed here recently, and have had a few emails from people claiming it broke their readers! In the case of a few parsers, the title for the entire channel was overwritten with the title of that textInput block, suggesting they’re incorrectly parsing any title in a channel header.

Kyle Lanchman, who has excellent taste (Lycrois Recoil and Bocchi!?), emailed to let me know that he’s issued a pull request to fix the parsing bug in RSParser, though he also uses another non-open source reader that likely won’t be fixed by it. I’ll leave the block there for now to use as an example, but remove it afterwards.

In a weird way, it’s fun my RSS feed is leaving its mark on an established RSS parser!

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Ruben Schade is a technical writer and infrastructure architect in Sydney, Australia who refers to himself in the third person in bios. Hi!

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