If I run across a new webcomic or blog that I really like, I subscribe to its RSS / Atom feed so I can see new content. If it's sufficiently awesome, I also want to read the archives to catch up on all the old content. Subscribing is easy. Reading the archives is easy if I can do it all in one sitting; otherwise it's hard.

Google Reader would be a great way to read through a site's archives, except that it won't track read/unread status for anything older than a couple of weeks. Is there something similar that will let me browse through the entire history of an RSS feed, keep track of which posts I've read, and have a simple way to take me to the next unread post? (Also important is a way to mark a post as "unread" again, since I might not always be able to read a longer post in one sitting.)

I'm aware that the actual RSS feed only contains the last ten or twenty posts at any given time, and that's actually part of this question. To be really useful, a "read-the-archive" webapp would have to be tied into something like Google Reader that has (probably) already been watching the RSS feed since forever, and that would therefore already know all the posts that have ever come across it -- or else have some other way to scrape the site's archives or otherwise learn about its history.

  • +1 I have the same issue. It's quite a nuisance that if you don't store the feed entries locally, they get lost when the feed reaches its max number of entries. Let's see if someone comes up with a good solution – mvime Aug 18 '10 at 16:41

You might be able to accomplish this with a tie-in to the Way Back Machine if the syndication was stored on the site as actual XML files. If it was dynamically generated from a database (as most modern CMS's will do) I think your solution would indeed need to have been listening since forever. If the site isn't particularly popular or doesn't show well in search listings, it may be difficult for automated crawlers like that to have found.

Assuming site builders don't customize archive or storage architectures in the CMSs they employ, you could potentially write an application to crawl and process at site's content. You'd probably have to build one for each CMS, and I can see that taking quite a while to process. Probably not a realistic option at this time.

Currently, I think you're probably going to have to browse the site.

Some feed readers with built-in browsers allow you to tag pages and add them to a feed's list. I'm pretty sure you can make a script link to add to your browser's bookmarks bar to star a random web page in Google Reader as well. And there is also the Delicious.com route. So, even if you do have to manually browse a site, you can still save the posts you really like.

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    This article: googlesystem.blogspot.com/2007/06/… purports to have a method to resurrect old feed items. If the feed wasn't being followed by a Reader user, I don't think it'll have the feed items, but it's worth a try. The example link doesn't work, and I wasn't able to get it to pull a few of my own sites, but maybe it'll work for bigger sites you're trying to read. – Matt Aug 18 '10 at 5:19
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    Cool -- so Reader can (sometimes) give me an Atom feed of the full history. That answers the harder half of my question. Still doesn't give me a good way to browse through it, though. – Joe White Aug 18 '10 at 13:01
  • I would either then save that Atom feed in Google reader, which may load the entire history, or add it to a desktop application feed reader. If you go the feed reader-route (there are some nice free options for both Windows and Apple) you should be able, when loading the Atom feed for the first time, to tell it to load all available history. – Matt Aug 18 '10 at 16:40
  • and with Google Reader now defunct and deleted, there is no other alternative. just saying. – silpol Nov 19 '13 at 20:16
  • Talk about resurrecting a zombie. Where'd you find this? I imagine 3 years later someone may have come up with an alternative. I don't spend any time really with RSS feeds so I don't know the space today. I'd probably go browse the web site now, frankly. – Matt Nov 20 '13 at 14:39

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