TUCOWS ARTICLE

Understanding RSS Feeds

RSS, also known as rich site summary or real simply syndication, arrived on the scene a number of years ago, but was only recently embraced by webmasters as a means to effectively syndicate content. RSS Feeds provide webmasters and content providers an avenue to provide concise summaries to prospective readers. Thousands of commercial web sites and blogs now publish content summaries in an RSS feed. Each item in the feed typically contains a headline; article summary and link back to the online article.
Published: May 3, 2005
Author: Michael E, Callahan
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FeedDemon 1.0
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RSS, also known as rich site summary or real simply syndication, arrived on the scene a number of years ago, but was only recently embraced by webmasters as a means to effectively syndicate content. RSS Feeds provide webmasters and content providers an avenue to provide concise summaries to prospective readers. Thousands of commercial web sites and blogs now publish content summaries in an RSS feed. Each item in the feed typically contains a headline; article summary and link back to the online article.

Benefit to the Webmaster

As the web has become more crowded webmasters have been striving to provide fresh and up to date content for their website visitors. Many webmasters have discovered they can easily utilize the information in RSS feeds to provide fresh web content. RSS feeds are composed in XML, which is a very simple markup language. Similar to HTML, XML uses tags to identify fields. Webmasters can easily parse the RSS feed and dynamically create web pages that contain headlines and summaries. The feeds will continuously update, supplying a steady stream of automatically generated fresh content.

RSS allows webmasters to:

  1. Provide fresh and relevant content on their website, which encourages users to return
  2. Constantly changing content means that search engine spiders will visit more frequently
  3. Automate content delivery
The benefits of RSS feeds are not limited to webmasters, surfers too benefit from the technology as well.

Benefit to Web Surfers

The beauty of RSS is that readers can quickly scan headlines (titles) and read articles of interest. Because the information is condensed and provided in a single location users can generally review more information in a shorter time frame. Additional information is only a click away. Best of all readers choose the feeds they wish to see, there is no spam with RSS. If you are not completely thrilled with the content appearing in a feed simply remove it from the newsreader. The technology is a pull technology rather than push technology, meaning the content is not forced on the consumers, who pull the content they want to see.

RSS allows for users to:

  1. Easily locate information
  2. Read condensced information or 'soundbytes' with clearly marked and dated topic material
  3. Classify and categorize information in an easy to navigate manner
  4. Maximize their time without having to deal with spam
RSS feeds can be viewed in a news aggregator or reader, which constantly updates and shows unread feeds. I found the functionality of the newsreaders to be similar to a simple email client. Consumers generally enter the URL of any RSS feeds that interest them. Topics with a common theme can be segregated into related groups.

I highly recommend FeedDemon by BradSoft as a newsreader. FeedDemon is extremely easy to use and allows for quick scanning and indexing of topics. FeedDemon allows users to quickly scan, sort and scroll through headline and article summaries, while viewing the actual content in a split screen web browser.

Finding Topic Specific Relevant Feeds

In order to find feeds that provide niche information users can search Feedster. Feedster is a rapidly growing news search engine that indexes information contained within RSS feeds. Searches for topic specific feeds can be conducted and feeds can be retrieved for syndication.

Benefit to Content Developer

While the benefits to users and webmasters are clear the distribution opportunities made available to content developers should not be overlooked. Information contained in the RSS feed can be easily syndicated, increasing content distribution and reach.

RSS allows for content developers to:

  1. Increase exposure in niche markets
  2. Communicate with user bases and reach potential customers via an alternate communication method
  3. Disseminate relevant information
  4. Define themselves as an industry expert
  5. Automate content delivery

RSS has effectively standardized the format for content delivery and has effectively defined the accepted standard for content distribution and syndication. RSS will likely rival email as a means of content distribution in another few years. The shear simplicity makes the technology very appealing.

The distribution potential, while albeit difficult to measure, is still attractive to all parties making the likelihood that RSS popularity will only continue to grow.


About Michael E, Callahan

Michael E. Callahan, known around the world by the trademarked name Dr. File Finder, is regarded as the world's leading expert on shareware. Dr. File Finder works with software programs and developers full-time, and in the average year he evaluates 10,000 programs. Since 1982 he has evaluated over 250,000 software and hardware products. Mr. Callahan began evaluating software online in 1982 and no one has been at it longer. He currently works doing online PR and marketing for software companies, and is the Senior Content Producer for Butterscotch.Com.

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