RSS: What it is, and why you should be using it.

RSS: What it is, and why you should be using it.


RSS, usually translated as “Really Simple Syndication,” and sometimes “Rich Site Summary,” is a standardized web file format used to publish frequently updated works: such as blog entries, news headlines, audio, and video. An RSS Document (called a “feed” or “web feed,”) includes full or summarized text, plus metadata such as publishing dates and authorship.

Web feeds benefit publishers by letting them syndicate content automatically. They benefit readers who want to subscribe to timely updates from favored websites or to aggregate feeds from many sites into one place. RSS feeds can be read using software called an “RSS reader”, “feed reader”, or “aggregator”, which can be web-based, desktop-based, or mobile-device-based.

An Example of an RSS 2.0 Feed:

[xml]<?xml version=”1.0″?>
<rss version=”2.0″>
<title>Lift Off News</title>
<description>Liftoff to Space Exploration.</description>
<pubDate>Tue, 10 Jun 2003 04:00:00 GMT</pubDate>
<lastBuildDate>Tue, 10 Jun 2003 09:41:01 GMT</lastBuildDate>
<generator>Weblog Editor 2.0</generator>

<title>Star City</title>
<description>How do Americans get ready to work with Russians aboard the
International Space Station? They take a crash course in culture, language
and protocol at Russia’s Star City.</description>
<pubDate>Tue, 03 Jun 2003 09:39:21 GMT</pubDate>

<title>Space Exploration</title>
<description>Sky watchers in Europe, Asia, and parts of Alaska and Canada
will experience a partial eclipse of the Sun on Saturday, May 31.</description>
<pubDate>Fri, 30 May 2003 11:06:42 GMT</pubDate>

<title>The Engine That Does More</title>
<description>Before man travels to Mars, NASA hopes to design new engines
that will let us fly through the Solar System more quickly. The proposed
VASIMR engine would do that.</description>
<pubDate>Tue, 27 May 2003 08:37:32 GMT</pubDate>

<title>Astronauts’ Dirty Laundry</title>
<description>Compared to earlier spacecraft, the International Space
Station has many luxuries, but laundry facilities are not one of them.
Instead, astronauts have other options.</description>
<pubDate>Tue, 20 May 2003 08:56:02 GMT</pubDate>

Now that you have a general overview of how RSS works, you can use it to send content to your users. Remember that RSS is only useful if you publish content often. If you have a basic website that doesn’t get updated, RSS isn’t something you need to worry about.

Now, if you do have a website that is frequently updated, it may already have a web feed. Go to Feed Validator, and type in the URL of your site, blog, etc. If it shows up as having an RSS feed, that means it is most likely automatically generated by your software, and there is nothing more you need to do. If not, I would recommend that, instead of hand-writing your RSS, you sign up for a site like Rapidfeeds. Their online tools allow you to create and publish RSS feeds for your site in realtime.

If your site doesn’t publish frequently, starting a blog can help. I will discuss using wordpress to create a blog in a later post. For now, keep on publishing!


Cory is currently pursuing a Bachelor's Degree in Computer Science from Eastern Connecticut State University. Cory is skilled in XHTML, CSS, PHP, MySQL, C/C++, and Objective-C. Cory has extensive knowledge of open source software, and participates in the development of well-known software projects, such as Mozilla Firefox and Drupal.

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