Members-Only RSS Feeds Now Using HTTP Authentication

Starting today, there’s a small change in the way this site’s members-only RSS feeds are handled: access to them now requires authentication. There are two such feeds: one containing the full content of every regular article I publish, and one for my Linked List linklog.

(The regular (free) RSS feed for this site, which contains a brief summary of each article, is unaffected by these changes.)

Previously, the members-only status for these feeds was enforced by way of membership keys — 9-character tokens placed at the end of the feed URL. For example, if your key was “123456789”, the URL you could use to subscribe to the full-content RSS feed was:

And your URL for the Linked List feed would be:

I implemented it this way for a few reasons, but mainly because it was easier than using HTTP authentication. Easier both for me, development-wise, and easier for members, in terms of actually subscribing to the feeds. Last June when these feeds debuted, several popular RSS aggregators didn’t support HTTP authenticated feeds, or, if they did, it wasn’t obvious how to subscribe to such feeds.

The downside to this scheme, however, is that all of the information needed to access the feeds was available in the URL itself. And with public web-based aggregators such as Bloglines, it’s become trivial for non-members to find and use these URLs using other people’s membership keys.

I noticed this months ago, and wrote to Bloglines to ask if there was anything I could do to keep these feeds truly private. Mark Fletcher responded a short while later with the answer: “Currently the only way that a feed is marked private is if it contains a username/password used for HTTP authentication.”

So, that’s what I’m using henceforth.

Most popular Mac RSS aggregators — including NetNewsWire 2.0 (technically still a public “beta”, but much more popular than NetNewsWire 1.x), PulpFiction, and NewsFire — now support HTTP authentication easily, by prompting you for a username and password similar to how a web browser would. (Update: This feature is only available in NetNewsWire 2.0b22 or later; older 2.0 betas will not prompt you with a dialog box for authentication.)

The old-style feed URLs will continue working for another week or so, but after that, authentication will be mandatory. The new feed URLs are the same as the old ones, but without the keys at the end.

Full-content feed:

Linked List feed:

The first time you refresh after changing your subscription URLs to the above, your aggregator should prompt you for a username and password. You only have to enter this info once. Your username is the email address you used when you signed up for your Daring Fireball membership. (If you paid by PayPal, for example, it’s probably whatever email address you use for PayPal transactions.) Your password is your membership key.

That’s it.

Important: If you’re using an aggregator that doesn’t prompt you for a username and password — which will be the case for any of you still using NetNewsWire 1.x, or if you’re using Bloglines — you can still subscribe to these feeds, but to do so, you need to put your authentication credentials in the URL, in the following format:

http://username:[email protected]/path

This embedding-your-credentials-in-the-URL technique works with any resource using HTTP authentication — it’s not specific to Daring Fireball.

However, and this is important, because the ‘@’ symbol is used to separate the username/password from the domain name in the URL, you can’t use the ‘@’ symbol as part of your username. Instead, you’ll need to URL encode it as ‘%40’.

So, if your email address is “[email protected]”, and your membership key is “123456789”, you can subscribe to the Linked List feed using this URL:[email protected]/linked/rss

And likewise for the full-content feed:[email protected]/feeds/rss

If you’re confused, I’m sorry. This is why I tried to keep it simple last year by simply having members put their keys at the end of the feed URLs.

To review:

  • If you’re using a modern RSS aggregator such as NetNewsWire 2.0, PulpFiction, or NewsFire, you can simply remove your key from the end of your subscription URL, and your aggregator will prompt you for your username and password with a nice dialog box. You don’t need to worry about encoding the ‘@’ in your email address.

  • If you’re using NetNewsWire 1.0, or Bloglines, or any other aggregator for which the above doesn’t result in your being prompted for a username and password, then you need to subscribe using the http://username:[email protected]/path format.

  • If you’ve lost / forgotten your key, you can retrieve it with the form here

  • If you know your key, but don’t remember which email address you used to join, you can have a reminder sent using the form here

  • If you need further assistance, you can send email to

My apologies for the inconvenience of all this.

A Brief Message to Those of You Using Bootlegged Membership Keys

I don’t think the bootlegging/swiping/filching of these members-only feeds is a big deal. If it hadn’t gotten out of hand, I would have been happy to tolerate it for the foreseeable future. However, it has gotten out of hand.

There is no members-only content at Daring Fireball; these feeds are merely a members-only means of accessing the same content that everyone can access for free via the web site. They’re a convenience I offer to members as a token of my thanks for supporting Daring Fireball.

If you’re determined to keep using these feeds for free, I’m sure you’ll find a way, and I won’t stop you. But a one-year membership to Daring Fireball costs just $19, which gets you legitimate access to these feeds. That works out to less than $1.60 a month — which isn’t much to you, but, in the aggregate, means a lot to me.