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RSS Feed Basics

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Tim Gocken
October 09, 2006


Tim Gocken
Honest Business Opportunities Review
Tim Gocken has written 1 articles for WebKnowHow.
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In a world heaving under the weight of billions of web pages, keeping up to date with the information you want can be a drag.

Wouldn't it be better to have the latest news and features delivered directly to you, rather than clicking from site to site?

Before RSS, several similar formats already existed for syndication, but none achieved widespread popularity or are still in common use today, as most were envisioned to work only with a single service. These originated from push and pull technologies. Two of the earliest examples are Backweb and Pointcast.

There is some discussion as to what RSS stands for, but most people plump for 'Really Simple Syndication'. RSS feeds are just a special kind of web page, designed to be read by computers rather than people. It might help to think of them as the free, internet version of the old-fashioned ticker-tape news wire machines.

Really Simple Syndication (RSS) provides an easy way to monitor fresh content. RSS feeds highlight new material so you don't have to repeatedly check a site yourself for updates.

RSS is a simple XML-based system that allows users to subscribe to their favorite websites. Using RSS, webmasters can put their content into a standardized format, which can be viewed and organized through RSS-aware software.

In general, the first thing you need is a news reader. This is a piece of software that checks RSS feeds and lets you read any new articles that have been added to them.

A program known as a feed reader or aggregator can check a list of feeds on behalf of a user and display any updated articles that it finds. It is common to find web feeds on major websites and many smaller ones. Some websites let people choose between RSS or Atom formatted web feeds; others offer only RSS or only Atom.

RSS-aware programs are available for various operating systems. Client-side readers and aggregators are typically constructed as standalone programs or extensions to existing programs such as web browsers. Many browsers have integrated support for RSS feeds.

There also are other applications that can convert a RSS feed into several usenet articles, viewable through the major newsreader software such as Mozilla Thunderbird or Forte‘ Agent: an example of such applications are nntp//rss, a Java coded program, or RSS Feed Converter a script for the popular mail-newsserver Hamster.

Some aggregators combine existing web feeds into new feeds, e.g., taking all football related items from several sports feeds and providing a new football feed.

On Web pages, web feeds (RSS or Atom) are typically linked with the word "Subscribe", an orange rectangle, ?, or with the letters ?or ?. Many news aggregators such as My Yahoo publish subscription buttons for use on Web pages to simplify the process of adding news feeds.

If you click on the button you can subscribe to the feed in various ways, including by dragging the URL of the RSS feed into your news reader or by cutting and pasting the same URL into a new feed in your news reader

Most sites that offer RSS feeds use a similar orange RSS button, but some may just have a normal web link to the feed.

Some browsers, including Firefox, Opera and Safari, automatically check for RSS feeds for you when you visit a website, and display an icon when they find one. This can make subscribing to RSS feeds much easier. For more details on these, please check their websites.

 



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