There is a lot of confusion surrounding the little orange and white RSS icon that is found all over the world on news and blog sites. People find it odd that when you click on it, you’re taken to a webpage that looks unfinished. Did the website designers forget to do something here? In fact the opposite is true. Putting that little orange symbol on a webpage is the final touch in making website information available to everyone as soon as it is put on the internet. The strange webpage you are taken to is written in what’s called XML code. XML is a special set of instructions to an RSS feed reader that tell it when the information for that particular webpage has changed or been updated. People who visit a webpage often for “up to the minute” information use this amazing technology to bring them the latest content from the sites they are interested in.
RSS stands for Rich Site Summary and it is not limited to monitoring news sites. It also allows a user to monitor blogs, Twitter or Facebook pages, financial information, daily deals, classified sites, and government alerts to name just a few. By posting a “feed” on their page, web site owners allow RSS readers to search their site to continuously look for fresh and new information all the while maintaining user privacy.
Sample Feed Button
RSS aggregators work in any language and reach every country around the globe. If you click on the recognizable icon found all over internet sites and see an screen your browser can’t digest, copy and past the URL into your RSS feed reader. If you want to be an RSS subscriber, download an RSS feed reader by doing a Google search for RSS Feed Reader. If you’re a web site owner and would like to give your users the freshest information possible download the RSS Creation Tutorial.
There are a lot of folk legends about the evolution of RSS. Below are the sequence of events in the life of RSS, as told by the designer of most of the formats.
|Dec 17, 1997||scriptingNews format, designed by DW at UserLand.|
|Mar 15, 1999||RSS 0.90, designed by Netscape, for use with my.netscape.com, which also supported scriptingNews format. The only thing about it that was RDF was the header, otherwise it was plain garden-variety XML.|
|Jul 10, 1999||RSS 0.91, designed by Netscape, spec written by Dan Libby, includes most features from scriptingNews 2.0b1. “We’re trying to move towards a more standard format, and to this end we have included several tags from the popular format.” The RDF header is gone.|
|Jul 28, 1999||UserLand adopts RSS 0.91, deprecates scriptingNews formats.|
|Jul 28, 1999||The RSS team at Netscape evaporates.|
|Jun 04, 2000||UserLand’s RSS 0.91 specification.|
|Aug 14, 2000||RSS 1.0 published as a proposal, worked on in private by a group led by Rael Dornfest at O’Reilly. Based on RDF and uses namespaces. Most elements of previous formats moved into modules. Like 0.90 it has an RDF header, but otherwise is a brand-new format, not related to any previous format.|
|Dec 25, 2000||RSS 0.92, which is 0.91 with optional elements, designed by Dave Winer at UserLand.|
|Apr 20, 2001||RSS 0.93 discussed but never deployed.|
|Mar 14, 2002||MetaWeblog API merges RSS 0.92 with XML-RPC to provide a powerful blogging API.|
|Sep 18, 2002||RSS 2.0, which is 0.92 with optional elements, designed by Dave Winer, after leaving UserLand. MetaWeblog API updated for RSS 2.0. While in development, this format was called 0.94.|
|Jul 15, 2003||RSS 2.0 spec released through Harvard under a Creative Commons license.|