Explore: All podcast episodes have one URL

We talk a lot about links. This month I want to explore the unsung hero that is the XML Link tag in our podcast show feeds.

1. What is an XML Link tag?

What is Extensible Markup Language (XML)?

XML is the unsung hero of a huge portion of the Internet. It’s how we add structure to information, so that software and people can understand.

a markup language […] for storing, transmitting, and reconstructing arbitrary data. It defines a set of rules for encoding documents in a format that is both human-readable and machine-readable.
~ Wikipedia’s XML page

XML is extentable — but we don’t need to worry about that to learn about the XML Link tag. :slight_smile:

Let’s look at a bit of XML

Let’s look at some XML I captured from the Movers Mindset podcast’s feed…

That screenshot looks pretty alien because I’m using a special text editor to help me. It’s useful to note

  • there are line numbers at the left (XML files can be very long)
  • there are little, gray images for characters that would normally just be invisible spacing—a tiny triangle is a Tab, a tiny dot shows for every Space, and a little ¬ shows where the Return character is at the end of each line

The Link tag in our podcast feeds

There on line 51 is an XML Link tag.

Technically, there’s a Link tag <link>, and there’s the close-Link tag </link> (notice the slash-character.)

So there’s the Link for this episode of movers mindset…


Programs (and people) can look at that and see the URL for this podcast episode…


2. What does it do? Where is it used?

Well, it’s used everywhere! Any program, which reads your podcast show’s feed, uses those Link URLs.

Here’s a screenshot of that Movers Mindset episode in my favorite podcast player, Overcast from my iPhone…

If I touch the title (marked with the red arrow) then Overcast shows me the web page at the XML Link’s URL…

Overcast gets kudos for honoring that XML Link and connecting the episode title to that web page!

…but most things on the Internet want to keep our listeners inside their walled garden.

For example, here’s Podchaser.com which has a zillion things on the web page for this Movers Mindset episode— and absolutely no way for anyone to follow the XML Link to the web page for this episode…

3. How is it defined? Why might we change it?

Usually, your podcast hosting service makes up a web page for each episode. They then put that URL into the episode’s XML Link tag.

We talk sometimes about getting our listeners out of social platforms… to something else— a web page for example. That’s what the XML Link tag is meant to be.

It answers the question…

Where is the actual place on the Web for this podcast episode?

4. Let’s explore…

Can you take a screenshot (desktop, mobile, whatever you like) of your favorite podcast player, displaying one of your podcast episodes…

…and explain (you don’t have to put an arrow on the image like I did) where it uses the XML Link to take you to the episode’s web page?

Ask questions here by replying to this ongoing topic! We’re EXPLORING :slight_smile:


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