RSS and the New Web Revolution
John H. Remmers
Dept. of Computer Science, Eastern Michigan University (Emeritus)
What is RSS?
- RSS = "Really Simple Syndication"
- Or maybe RSS = "Rich Site Summary"?
- Basis of a process called syndication.
- Enables new paradigm for accessing the web.
- Currently experiencing explosive growth and development.
Here are a few sites that give succinct non-technical explanations of RSS:
For another succinct summary of RSS, with pointers to lots of
other material, check the
Wikipedia RSS entry.
Here's a link to a brief RSS history.
Who Supplies RSS
- Online newspapers and news services (e.g.
New York Times,
- Shopping sites (
- Blogging services (LiveJournal, etc.)
- Public libraries
Folksonomy sites (Technorati, del.icio.us, Flickr)
Orange Buttons - Huh?
- A lot of websites display buttons that look like this:
- For example, here's one:
Joho the Blog
- The button links to an XML document called a
- The feed contains metadata about recent items on the website,
and is accessible via a URL.
What's in an RSS Document?
- List of items. Each item contains metadata
about a resource, such as:
- Creation date and time
- Summary of content
- Typically just new or recent material.
- Note: More than one version of RSS.
- Syndication: The process of delivering feeds to
- Server provides feeds.
- Client polls feeds periodically.
- Transport: HTTP
Get request. (
- OK, what problem does this solve?
What's New Problem.
- How do you find out what's new at a website?
- Answer 1: Go to the website and look.
- Answer 2: Subscribe to an email notification list
- How do you find out what's new on some topic?
- Answer: Use a search engine.
So what's the problem?
- You have to sort out for yourself what's new at a site, and it
might be buried deeply.
- Mailing list maintenance is a burden on the information
- Search engines are better at finding older stuff than new
- Aggregator is most common kind of RSS client
(also called newsreader or feed browser).
- User can subscribe to feeds.
- Aggregator polls feeds periodically, keeps track of what user
has already seen, and alerts user to new material.
Kinds of aggregators
- Desktop (many available)
- Web-based (e.g.
- Firefox live bookmarks
- Browser plug-ins
- My Yahoo
Search Feeds (
Instead of feed residing in static file, it's generated
dynamically as follows:
- Client sends URL that contains a query string.
- Server translates to database query.
- Server packages result as RSS and sends it back to client.
- New way of distributing audio (and video)
- There exist hundreds of podcast feeds.
- Major broadcasters (e.g.
BBC Radio) now offer podcasts.
- Uses enclosure feature of RSS 2.0