RSS, XML, Feeds … what are they anyway?

I’ve been meaning to post a tutorial of sorts about these things we refer to as ‘RSS’, ‘XML’ or just plain ‘feeds’.  LexBlog has posted links to a series of posts on CT BizBlogs about this technology that makes it that much easier to aggregate all that information that tickles your fancy on the Web.  By way of introduction, feeds are generally identified by little red or orange labels with the words “RSS”, “XML” or “FEED” and lately with the icon 200603280912 (this change to this new icon was made recently in an effort to standardise the icons used to indicate the location of feeds).  So what is RSS aka feeds aka XML technology?  According to CT BizBlogs:

“RSS organizes web-based information into a format which allows people to subscribe to automatic updates”

Another way of explaining what feeds are is to compare them to your incoming mail.  Feeds are reformatted content from websites that support the feature (typically most blogs) and which you can subscribe to using a “feed reader” or “aggregator”.  An aggregator then downloads updated feeds from the relevant websites as those websites are updated or pretty much whenever you want to download them.  If you are using an aggregator on your computer (as opposed to a web-based aggregator like Bloglines or Newsgator), you can then catch up on developments on your favourite websites offline with all the updates delivered to one place.

Take a look at the posts on CT BizBlogs on the following topics:

Another post worth reading is Niall Kennedy’s excellent post titled “State of the aggregator” which looks at the current use of this technology as well as its potential.

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