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RSS: What is RSS and what can RSS be used for

What is RSS and what cool things can RSS be used for.

Written by Jon Berg <jon.berg|a|turtlemeat.com>

RSS was originally developed by Netscape in 1999. RSS stands for an abbreviation of RDF Site Summary, Rich Site Summary, or Really Simple Syndication. I bet they could not find one consistent name because that would not confuse people. Anyway RSS is an XML-based format that allows web developers to describe and syndicate web site content. Syndication means to use the content in a different service or view, that could be another web page or in another desktop application. The syndicated content, or feed, can consist of both the direct content and metadata (information about the content).

Making a RSS feed
The RSS feed is an XML document with some standardised tags, and this is not meant as tutorial for creating the RSS feed. Most publishing systems come with their finished RSS link. In those systems you can be RSS enabled with a click of button. You can select if you want the entire articles to be in the RSS feed or just headlines.

RSS in Action
There are several RSS readers.
SharpReader.Windows. Simple, but gets the job done.
NetNewsWire. Mac OS X. This elegant Mac-like aggregator is easy to use and powerful.
Straw. Linux. The best aggregator for GNOME.
Bloglines.Web. Check all your feeds from any web browser.
These will display the various RSS feeds you subscribe to and you can get notifed when new things get appended in the feeds. You will be able to browse the content in a way similar to Usenet news or reading your email.

Live bookmarks in Firefox.
In Firefox you can use Live Bookmarks to quickly see what is happening at your favorite sites. A site is enabled for Live Bookmark if if has the tag
<link rel="alternate" type="application/rss+xml" title="RSS 2.0" href="https://glog.jon-berg.biz/feed/rss2/" /> in the <head> of the page which is essentially a link to RSS feed for that page. On such pages you will see the icon at the down right corner. Clicking this will enable you to add a Live Bookmark. You can test this at JB's Glog.

RSS is a neat thing if you want to be updated on a lot of stuff. Some people check a lot of web pages updates, that can be simplified with RSS like in the examples shown. It is become the general view that you can use the RSS feed in any way you want, like re publish it on your own web page or use it in any clever way you may think of. Most news web pages often just publish the headlines of the stories, and a very brief excerpt. This is a bit annoying since it limits the use of RSS. Most publishers want the users to use the standard web page interface for browsing the pages since that often contains a lot of advertising.

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