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RSS Overview

What is RSS?

RSS Feed Icon

The feed icon used in
several browsers

RSS is an acronym for Really Simple Syndication and Rich Site Summary. RSS is an XML-based format for content distribution. Webmasters create an RSS file containing headlines and descriptions of specific information. While the majority of RSS feeds currently contain news headlines or breaking information the long term uses of RSS are broad.

RSS is a defined standard based on XML with the specific purpose of delivering updates to web-based content. Using this standard, webmasters provide headlines and fresh content in a succinct manner. Meanwhile, consumers use RSS readers and news aggregators to collect and monitor their favorite feeds in one centralized program or location. Content viewed in the RSS reader or news aggregator is place known as an RSS feed.

RSS is a family of web feed formats used to publish frequently updated works — such as blog entries, news headlines, audio, and video — in a standardized format. An RSS document (which is called a "feed", "web feed", or "channel") includes full or summarized text, plus metadata such as publishing dates and authorship.

RSS feeds benefit publishers by letting them syndicate content automatically. A standardized XML file format allows the information to be published once and viewed by many different programs. They benefit readers who want to subscribe to timely updates from favored websites or to aggregate feeds from many sites into one place.

RSS feeds can be read using software called an "RSS reader", "feed reader", or "aggregator", which can be web-based, desktop-based, or mobile-device-based. The user subscribes to a feed by entering into the reader the feed's URI or by clicking a feed icon in a web browser that initiates the subscription process. The RSS reader checks the user's subscribed feeds regularly for new work, downloads any updates that it finds, and provides a user interface to monitor and read the feeds. RSS allows users to avoid manually inspecting all of the websites they are interested in, and instead subscribe to websites such that all new content is pushed onto their browsers when it becomes available.

RSS is becoming increasing popular. The reason is fairly simple. RSS is a free and easy way to promote a site and its content without the need to advertise or create complicated content sharing partnerships.

The History of RSS

1997 - Dave Winer develops scriptingNews. RSS was born.

1999 - Netscape develops RSS 0.90 (which supported scriptingNews). This was simply XML with an RDF header.

1999 - Dave Winer at UserLand develops scriptingNews 2.0b1 (This included Netscape's RSS 0.90 features)

1999 - Netscape develops RSS 0.91. In this version they removed the RDF header, but included most features from scriptingNews 2.0b1.

1999 - UserLand gets rid of scriptingNews and uses only RSS 0.91

Netscape stops their RSS development

2000 - UserLand releases the official RSS 0.91 specification

2000 - A group lead by Rael Dornfest at O'Reilly develops RSS 1.0. This format uses RDF and namespaces. This version is often confused as being a new version of 0.91, but this is a completely new format with no ties to RSS 0.91

2000 - Dave Winer at UserLand develops RSS 0.92

2002 - Dave Winer develops RSS 2.0 after leaving Userland

2003 - The official RSS 2.0 specification is released

What are the Differences?

RSS 1.0 is the only version that was developed using the W3C RDF (Resource Description Framework) standard.

The idea behind RDF was to help create a Semantic Web. Read more about RDF and the Semantic Web here. However, this does not matter too much for ordinary users, but by using web standards it will be easier for persons and applications to exchange data.

Is There an RSS Web Standard?

There is no official standard for RSS.

About 50 % of all RSS feeds use RSS 0.91
About 25 % use RSS 1.0
The last 25 % is split between RSS 0.9x versions and RSS 2.0

RSS 0.91 and RSS 2.0 are easier to understand than RSS 1.0. Our tutorial is based on RSS 2.0.

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