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RSS Score Card

By now you've seen and heard the buzz about Weblogs, those personal journals/independent Web sites that have sprouted like wildfire in the past three years.

Indeed, you probably have a few bloggers in your company, kind of like we do (Alan Meckler, Jupitermedia's CEO, for example. And Jupiter Research Analyst Joe Wilcox). Or they may post to their own personal Weblogs on their time. All well and good, right? So why should all this be of interest to you or to your company?

Well, for starters, the trend shows no signs of slowing. In just a few years, blogging has become a bona fide phenomenon. If you have people in your organization who blog, it might be time to set a policy about blogging. Have you considered how the use of blogs could help or hurt your corporate image?

What's behind Google's move to pay bloggers out of its AdSense revenues? The short answer is that it's another sign of the growth and power of blogging, as well as how syndicated feeds to your desktop are helping to drive the technology.

Although it's early yet in the advance of blogging, the story of its rise in popularity really is about the use and potential with syndication technology driving bloggers: RSS.

Depending on who you talk to, RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication or Rich Site Summary. And its use is only starting to change the way we think about how we get our information across the Web, as well as how we distribute it. Plus, any technology that at least threatens to solve the spam that is choking our inboxes is worth understanding.

In this section of internetnews.com's In Focus, we'll provide you a brief overview that looks at how the technology came about and where it's headed.

  • 1. RSS Defined
  • 2. What's In RSS For Me?
  • 3. At-a-Glance Aggregators

    1. RSS Defined
    RSS is an XML-based format for distributing and aggregating Web content. A Web site that wants to allow other sites to publish some of its content creates an RSS document and registers the document with an RSS publisher. A user who can read RSS-distributed content can use the content on a different site. Syndicated content includes such data as news feeds, events listings, news stories, headlines, project updates, excerpts from discussion forums or even corporate information.

    The most common use of RSS is with blogs. Files for RSS often end in .xml, .rss or .rdf.

    If you're aware of RSS, it's probably because you use a news aggregator, which reads and gathers content from any RSS feeds you subscribe to. But it's not the only format. After Netscape got out of the portal business, the original version it created, 0.90, was followed by RSS 0.91, which is now owned by UserLand Software.

    However, other groups have devised RSS 1.0 separately from UserLand, which still develops the 0.9x branch.

    Not Only RSS Formats

    As per the AtomEnabled.org Web site, Atom was conceived and realized by engineers interested in improving the functionality of RSS. The primary difference between the two formats is that Atom is somewhat more complex (for producers of Atom feeds). In addition it can carry more complex information, and it is consistent across the syndication, storage and editing of information.

    For example, says Sheila Ann Manuel Coggins, an avid blogger for About.com, although Atom is not the same as RSS, it has similar functions. It allows a list weblog or news information, known as feeds, to become available for syndication. The information may come in the form of headlines only (titles) or headlines with content (full or introduction only).

    Typical Feed
    Here's how a typical RSS feed code looks like, such as the feed from the front page of internetnews.com. What's important is the metadata, or descriptions about the data, such as:

    When you click on RSS links, this is the typical code you would get for the feed.