What is it?


What is RSS:
RSS, an acronym for Really Simple Syndication or Rich Site Summary, is an XML based protocol that allows for the automatic distribution of Internet content from news related sites via RSS aggregators or readers. RSS allows you to receive free updates by subscribing (or clicking on buttons labeled ?RSS? or 'XML') to information from sites that publish content (e.g. news outlets or bloggers). Publishers of information may make information available to users in this format to save time required to visit multiple web sites individually.

RSS is a format for syndicating news and the content of news-like sites, including major news sites like Wired, news-oriented community sites like Slashdot, and personal weblogs. But it's not just for news. Pretty much anything that can be broken down into discrete items can be syndicated via RSS: the "recent changes" page of a wiki, a changelog of CVS checkins, even the revision history of a book. Once information about each item is in RSS format, an RSS-aware program can check the feed for changes and react to the changes in an appropriate way.

Additional RSS Information:


For additional information on RSS and its benefits and uses, please visit the following:

Technology at Harvard Law RSS 2.0 specifications:
http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/tech/rss

Wikipedia's RSS definition and background information:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RSS_(protocol). [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RSS_(protocol)|[[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RSS_(protocol)|[[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RSS_(protocol)|http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RSS_%28protocol%29]]]]]]

A brief history:


The history of RSS can be traced back to 1997. RSS was first invented by Netscape. They wanted to use an XML format to distribute news, stories and information

But coders beware. The name "RSS" is an umbrella term for a format that spans several different versions of at least two different (but parallel) formats. The original RSS, version 0.90, was designed by Netscape as a format for building portals of headlines to mainstream news sites. It was deemed overly complex for its goals; a simpler version, 0.91, was proposed and subsequently dropped when Netscape lost interest in the portal-making business. But 0.91 was picked up by another vendor, UserLand Software, which intended to use it as the basis of its weblogging products and other web-based writing software.

In the meantime, a third, non-commercial group split off and designed a new format based on what they perceived as the original guiding principles of RSS 0.90 (before it got simplified into 0.91). This format, which is based on RDF, is called RSS 1.0. But UserLand was not involved in designing this new format, and, as an advocate of simplifying 0.90, it was not happy when RSS 1.0 was announced. Instead of accepting RSS 1.0, UserLand continued to evolve the 0.9x branch, through versions 0.92, 0.93, 0.94, and finally 2.0.

What a mess.


How does it work?


RSS is actually pretty simple. Advanced features enable you to create professional looking RSS feeds quickly.

Why would anyone want to do this?


Rather than checking dozens of web pages and sites throughout the day, RSS allows you to look on one location and see all of the newest contenet from your feeds. Some popular uses for RSS Feeds are displaying head-lines on other wedsites, aggregating RSS from other websites,

and search engines use RSS Feeds. Find out more here.

So which one do I use?


That's 7 -- count 'em, 7! -- different formats, all called "RSS". As a coder of RSS-aware programs, you'll need to be liberal enough to handle all the variations. But as a content producer who wants to make your content available via syndication, which format should you choose?

RSS versions and recommendations|| Version || Owner || Pros || Status || Recommendation ||

0.90
Netscape

Obsoleted by 1.0
Don't use
0.91
UserLand
Drop dead simple
Officially obsoleted by 2.0, but still quite popular
Use for basic syndication. Easy migration path to 2.0 if you need more flexibility
0.92, 0.93, 0.94
UserLand
Allows richer metadata than 0.91
Obsoleted by 2.0
Use 2.0 instead
1.0
RSS-DEV Working Group
RDF-based, extensibility via modules, not controlled by a single vendor
Stable core, active module development
Use for RDF-based applications or if you need advanced RDF-specific modules
2.0
UserLand
Extensibility via modules, easy migration path from 0.9x branch
Stable core, active module development
Use for general-purpose, metadata-rich syndication

Who uses it?


RSS has evolved and more and more company's have started to use it including company's like the BBC, CNET, CNN, Disney, Forbes, Motley Fool, Wired, Red Herring, Salon, Slashdot, ZDNet, and more.

When was it invented?


RSS was first invented by Netscape. They wanted to use an XML format to distribute news, stories and information. It was originated by UserLand in 1997 and used mainly by Netscape to fill channels for Netcenter.

UserLand Software picked up RSS .91 and continued to develop it, coming out with .92, .93, and .94. At the same time as UserLand, a non-commercial group picked up RSS and developed RSS 1.0 based on their interpretation of the original principles of RSS. They based RSS 1.0 on RDF and re-named it RDF Site Summary. UserLand was not happy with RSS 1.0, and continued development of their version of RSS (Really Simple Syndication), eventually releasing RSS 2.0.

What are some examples?


These are the top one-hundred most subscribed to RSS Feeds.

How do I read it?


RSS Feeds are simple to read if you know what to look for, but the best way to read RSS Feeds is with a "RSS Reader". They are free and they save time. Some good advise about RSS Readers and some top picks are found here. O'reilley has more at: http://XML.wikispaces.com/XML.

Are RSS Feeds better than E-Mail news letters?


Email newsletters are great, but spam is not. Fortunately, there is an alternative way to subscribe to the web sites and blogs you visit regularly: RSS. You can use these syndicated RSS "feeds" to display the latest news from major newspapers, for example, on your own web site or read them on other sites collecting these feeds. But you can also display RSS feeds on your desktop and use them like email newsletters.