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Shared RSS – Syndication

RSS Syndication or RSS Newsfeeds (RSS Feeds for short) all refer to the same thing. There are two parts to the process, the publisher, and the consumer. The publisher produces a small text file in a special format that lists the title and address of an article or resource published on the World Wide Web. The consumer uses a program, usually called an aggregator to read and display the contents of that simple text file, with links to the web page. Or the consumer may visit a website that includes an aggregator program, and view the results as a web page. Members of Yahoo.com, for example, can set their personal ‘My Yahoo’ pages to display the contents of any RSS feeds they select.

That is all there is to it. Simple. That’s why some people say RSS stands for ‘Really Simple Syndication.’

Some confusion has arisen because an RSS feed may be used in several ways. Calling it a ‘newsfeed’ is the first mistake, since RSS is used for much more than news. The most common situation is for the RSS items listed to have a short title, link to the original web page referred to, and a short description of the contents of that web page. But other people are including the complete contents of their resource directly in the RSS feed. So the feed may contain a graphic image of a cartoon, an entire post to a weblog (or blog), or the complete contents of a newsletter, rather than just a link back to those resources on a web site. Other sites leave out the description, and just list titles linked back to their website. And some versions of RSS allow you to leave out the title, so long as you have a description.

Speaking of ‘versions’ of RSS, that is the source of even more confusion. RSS began with version 0.90, and was called ‘RDF Site Summary’ — the RDF refers to ‘Resource Description Framework,’ the method of labeling different parts of the file. This early version was updated and changed through various incarnations, including 0.91, 0.92, 0.93 and 0.94, and they began to call RSS ‘Really Simple Syndication.’ Then someone came along with a different format, slightly more complicated, and called it RSS version 1.0. Supporters of version 0.94 didn’t like the implication that 1.0 was somehow an advance on 0.94 when in actuality it was a completely different format, so they came up with version 2.0 which was an improved version of 0.94, but still unlike 1.0. Rather than take sides in all this squabbling, someone else came up with their own version and called it Atom, to distance themselves from the RSS battles. Someone else developed Blogrolls that use OPML (Outline Processor Markup Language). Most of these formats are either loosely or strictly based on XML, the parent mark-up scheme.

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