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What is XML (RSS) Syndication?

RSS is a technology that notifies you when a web site is updated, and allows you to read the updates without visiting the site itself. Think of it as a mailing list for web sites, somewhat like the Webdev Listserv. Only it works a little differently.

A RSS "feed" (also known as a "channel") is a website offering its headlines, news or content in a simplistic format. It is also used for used to publish frequently updated digital content, such as blogs, news feeds or podcasts. When a website has an RSS feed, it can be said to be "syndicated". There are other syndication formats besides RSS, but RSS is the most widely used and supported.

Why Use XML (RSS) Syndication?

XML (RSS) Syndication is a complement to email announcements because it doesn't clutter your inbox, it is easier to manage for recipients who get a lot of news online, and it is spam-proof.

A RSS feed by itself can't do much. If you view one in some browsers, you'll see the raw XML.

The real power in this is a RSS reader can track multiple sites at the same time. A RSS reader can pull the small text-only feed from a site which alerts you of new content. RSS reader checks periodically for new items in the feeds you are subscribed to, often every hour or half hour. So the news comes to you, rather than you having to go to the news. Also most RSS feeds contain just links, headlines, or brief synopsis of new information only. That means the small amount of Web data can be sent to any XML-compatible device - a cell phone, pager, or handheld computer - without a lengthy download process.

How to Use XML (RSS) Syndication?

In order to get the information provided by the RSS feed you need two things:

  1. A RSS Reader
  2. A Link to Subscribe to the Feed

1. A RSS Reader

First you will need a RSS reader. A RSS reader is sometimes also known as a feed reader, a RSS aggregator, or a news aggregator. It is kind of a specialized web browser. In fact, sometimes it is a web browser.

RSS-aware programs are available for various operating systems. Many of the newest browsers have built-in support for RSS feeds. Client-side readers and aggregators are sometimes constructed as standalone programs or extensions to existing programs in web browsers and email readers. Visit Recommended Software Solutions for the software that ITSS supports.

2. A Link to Subscribe to the Feed

On web pages, feeds are usually linked with the word "Subscribe", or a feed icon , or a rectangle with the letters XML or RSS . Some news readers may just require you to click on the link or icon. Some may require you to copy and paste the URL somewhere into program. See your news reader's documentation for details and configuration information.

The Web Design Reference Site has one RSS 2.0 feed for site updates:

It lists new link titles in category areas.

More RSS Information

For more information on RSS visit RSS (Rich Site Summary or Really Simple Syndication).