RSS feeds are used by many internet users on a day to day basis, and yet most of us don’t know what they are. RSS (Really Simple Syndication/ Rich Site Summary) feeds are web feeds written in a portable markup language call XML used to publish frequently updated works, such as blog entries and news feeds. A standardized XML file format allows the information to be published online and viewed by various different programs, and this language is a generic specification for the creation of data formats. RSS formats are used by many website content management systems so a webmaster does not have to carryout any coding or manual work. A perfect example of this is the use of WordPress.
An RSS document, commonly referred to as a feed, webfeed or channel, includes full or summarized text, along with metadata such as publishing dates and authorships. These feeds are read through the use of an RSS reader, feed reader or aggregator, which are specifically developed to read RSS feeds. The RSS readers can be web based, desktop based or mobile device based. To use these feeds, a person must subscribe by entering the feeds URI/URL into the reader or by clicking on the RSS icon. The reader will then check for any updates of the users subscribed feeds regularly and provides a user interface to monitor and read the feeds.
There are several different versions of RSS, but these fall into the two main categories of RDF (or RSS1) or RSS2.*. Extension mechanisms allow each branch to track innovations in the other. For example, RSS2.* was the first to support enclosures, used in podcast technology. However, an enclosure extension means that the RDF can also provide this feature to users.
RSS feeds are good for a variety of different reasons. The main advantage is that other websites can display content that will be automatically updated. The advantage for the website that produces the feed is that they get free back links from other websites or web directories. The main benefit for readers is that they are provided with constant updates from there chosen sites, all in the one location. Several bit-torrent based peer-to-peer file sharing websites also use RSS feeders. These feeds allow users to download files automatically from the moment the feeder detects them. This process is often referred to as broadcasting.
RSS feeds are a great example of how far internet technology has come today. By enabling people to receive updates at a fast rate and in one location, these feeds are not only saving user’s time, but enabling a wealth of information to spread throughout the internet like never experienced before. Although the technological information behind RSS feeds may be hard to understand, they are both easy to use and increasingly useful. RSS feeds are good for both their users and the sites that provide the content, and are a sign of how the internet has developed and where it might go in the future.
I urge you to use these great tools to enhance your own experience as a surfer or a webmaster.