What Does That Little RSS Thing Mean on Websites?

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Hudson Valley RSSFor those of you that enjoy reading various websites on a regular basis you have no doubt seen the little RSS icon asking people to subscribe to the latest updates and further the syndication of the web page.  This is an adaption of newspaper syndication.  Years ago newspaper publishers realized that if they would use articles written by different people from assorted places across the country they could increase their subscription numbers with fewer actual reporters.  The Quick Fire RSS feed can be found here

Today, there are millions of reporters, writers and experts that comment daily on almost every topic under the sun.  With so much information available it can be a daunting task to stay on top of everything.  And thus, the RSS was born.

Origin of RSS

The Really Simple Syndication (RSS) was first introduced by the company known as Netscape.  The idea was to capture the important headlines from across the web and list them as the news broke on their own sites.  Netscape originally wanted to delve into the portal industry but they abandoned the RSS when the portal business did not turn a profit.

From that point the company UserLand Software acquired the existing version of RSS and began using it.  The improved over the original versions several times while a non-commercial company began adapting RSS for different needs and eventually introduced the RSS 1.0.  However, UserLand did not appreciate the competition so they went to work on really putting their own design stamp on the software and ultimately introduced RSS 2.0.

How RSS Works

RSS is simple to use and it works extremely well for keeping in the loop on any topic.  This is the basic workings of RSS.

  1. RSS is composed of XML, a mark up language used to prepared documents for the internet.
  2. Every document has the <rss> element first.
  3. After the rss element is the <channel> element that holds the data of the RSS
  4. The <title> element may be the title of the actual document or it could be a title for the whole website.
  5. The URL for the web page is listed in the <link> element.  It might be a link to a website or just one particular item.
  6. The description of the RSS feed is provided in the <description> element.
  7. The <item> element is where you see all the important stuff.  The links, headlines and descriptions are in the item and show up in the feeder system.

It is possible to use this list to create an RSS feed of any site.  However, this can include a tremendous amount of work.  A tool, like Weblog, can simplify the process and make it easier and automatic.

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