RSS (Really Simple Syndication)


"RSS is a family of web feed formats used to publish frequently updated digital content, such as blogs,
news feeds or podcasts. Users of RSS content use programs called feed 'readers' or 'aggregators': the user 'subscribes' to a feed by supplying to their reader a link to the feed; the reader can then check the user's subscribed feeds to see if any of those feeds have new content since the last time it checked, and if so, retrieve that content and present it to the user." There are seven verison of the RSS; the latest version being 2.0. The ability of RSS programs to update personalized content has contributed to the rise in popularity of independent online webcomics such as Penny Arcade, ScaryGoRound, and Diesel Sweeties. In some cases these comics have become so widespread thanks to the ease of Aggregator programs that many have made the additional jump to "old media" outlets, specifically newspapers.


Some of the applications for RSS feeds include the abilitiy to update on the fly, and get only information that you want and need. It is a popular tool among publishers for the creation of a dynamic site that has updated content.

On the publishing end, RSS is a common tool used by bloggers, who will frequently offer feeds containing their headlines and some content allowing readers to easily see updates but enticing them to visit the site for the full story and by merchants such as ebay, who create a feed for merchandise that may interest their consumers. Most blogging sites like offer users a free automatic RSS feed with their blogs.

On the user end, RSS is a popular tool for increasing readership on personal sites or fan sites with small staffs because it is an easy way to provide readers with dynamic and up to date content. Some sites have found success by pulling together several feeds with common themes or subject matter and putting them at a single location for easy access by users. This has led to increased collaboration by like sites but has also raised the legal issue of feed plagiarism.

RSS is based on XML (eXtensible Markup Language), a language that supports a wide range of functions required by RSS feeds. The process of applying an RSS feed can be broken down into four steps.

1. A publisher creates a feed with XML. Although some users choose to build their own, several programs are available to create feeds automatically.

2. A reader chooses to "subscribe" to a feed by adding the link to a news aggregator.

3. The publisher adds new material to the feed and updates it accordingly.

4. The news aggregator frequently checks the feed for updates and displays the new content for the reader as it becomes available.

Brief History:

The initials RSS have been used to stand for multiple synonymous terms that have evolved as new versions of the format were released. It has previously been refered to as an RDF (Resource Description Framework Site Summary (v. 0.9 & 1.0), Rich Site Summary (v. 0.91 % 1.0), and most recently Really Simple Syndication (v. 2.0). All three terms are still in use regularly today and all are considered appropriate terminology depending on which version you are reffering to.

The roots of RSS can be traced to the work done on the Meta Content Framework by Ramanathan V. Guha and others at Apple Computer. However, Netscape, Userland Software, and Microsoft also worked on syndication technologies. The initial version of RSS, RDF Site Summary, was developed by Guha while working at Netscape in 1999. Development continued until AOL purchased Netscape, at which time the RSS format was essentially abandoned.

A working group, RSS-DEV, was formed for the purpose of continuing development amid the formats increasing popularity. Over the next couple of years both RSS-DEV and individual developers such as Dave Winer released updated versions of RSS. The format has continued to show promise with the New York Times and Apple incorporating RSS into their products. Support is growing as well and in early 2006 the RSS Advisory Board was formed to help push the technology forward.

Just last year studies showed that 34.4% of Chinese internet users were taking advantage of RSS in some way. This dwarfs the figure of 6% in the United States, but clearly the technology is catching on in some important markets ( Not only are end users utilizing RSS but the marketing industry is also quite obviously intrigued as another report shows:

"RSS is currently used or is planned to be used within the next 12 months by 63% of consumer product marketers, 65% media and communications marketers, 37% retail marketers, 37% financial services marketers and 38% equipment and tech marketers."

Web Resources:


-Aggregators: RSS aware programs that help keep track of many weblogs and display new items from each

Harvard Supported Aggregator List__


Model of RSS in Action


RSS on the Fly