Really Simple Syndication: RSS
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1. Introduction

The Web has entered a new era after fall 2001 when the so called the dot-com boom (deflation of the Internet bubble) occurred which caused the bankruptcy of many Internet companies. Technology focused large portals which tried to take control of the users and which harboured services bought extravagantly to attract traffic upon themselves have been replaced by user focused web sites where expertise is maximized and sharing has loomed large.[1]

The term Web 2.0 has first been pronounced at the brain storming conference held in 2004 between O'Reilly and Media Live International in order to describe the new era and understanding and tried to be formulized as indicated at the below table.[2]

Web 2.0 definition has been open to debate since that conference and there has been no consensus on what the reciprocity is.

Web 1.0

Web 2.0


Google AdSense






Britannica Online


Personal Web Sites

Personal Web Sites

Evite and EVDB

Domain name speculation

Search engine optimization

Page views

Cost per click

Screen scraping

Web services



Content management systems


directories (taxonomy)

tagging ("folksonomy")



Table 1. Outstanding Sites and titles for Web 1.0 and their reciprocities for the new era.

2. Web Syndication

Until the early 2000s Internet sites were able to use contents of other Internet sites only by opening up a frame. This was far from being practical because of the disadvantages using a frame brought and not being able to make any changes in the format of the content. As can be seen in Table 1 the syndication feature has come up front in the new generation Internet sites. Web syndication is being able to make use of certain parts of sites without sites or users having to actually access those sites. As well as using HTML or JavaScript, generally XML which is the most appropriate for data sharing is used for syndication.[3]

3. Web feed

Web feed is the most widely used method for syndication. A web feed document may consist of multimedia files like content, links, pictures and videos. Sites which choose to share their content form a web feed and present this to the utilization of other sites or users.

Web feed handling

Users access the content through software called 'feed reader' or 'aggregator' installed on their computers or web-based applications.

Other sites that intend to make use of these web feeds incorporate dynamic programming languages like PHP or ASP and try to access the content and make it utilizable at their sites.

The benefits of developing a Web feed

The benefits of forming a web feed for a site may be listed as below:

  • New changes in the content of the site can be conveyed to the users rapidly.
  • Since web feeds are generally XML-based they are independent of platform.
  • Sharing the content with other sites results in the shared site to reach more users.

The benefits of accessing Web feeds

The benefits of accessing Web feeds may be listed as:

  • The user can rapidly access and find out latest events of interest at web sites where web feed is deployed.
  • Since the users will not have to supply any personal info to contact the web feeds they would be able to use them securely without a risk of viruses, spam or worms.
  • Sites that make use of the feeds of other sites will enrich their content

4. RSS

RSS is the data format scripted with XML used for developing a web feed. With RSS in the late 1990s as an acronym for "Rich Site Summary", Netscape was developed. With its final version RSS 2.0 became the acronym for "Really Simple Syndication" while being further developed by Dave Winer. [4]

The Elements of RSS

In the RSS feed file the <channel> element is where the info about the site the feed belongs to is indicated. With the obligatory elements like <title>, <link> and <description> the title, the address, and a description of the site are given. The elements as <language>, <pubdate> and <docs> are optional. The <channel> element may include unlimited <item> elements. The item which is a sub-element is where we would include all the information intended to appear under. On the given example a single item is used for each announcement.

Elements like <title>, <link> and <description> may also be used under the item element. In this manner the feed can contain the title, address, and description of the content. Even though these are not a must, at least one of the <title> or <description> items is necessary.

5. The RSS Reader

In order to read the developed RSS feeds users may install software like Sharpreader on their computers or may register at Internet sites as Google Reader or feeds-reddit which provide the service. To subscribe to any feed it will suffice for the user to enter the web address of the fedd to the reader program.

The reader program that gathers the developed RSS feeds determined by the user and present them to the user is called aggregator. In recent years many products like mail software and browsers come with RSS support and provide RSS reader function besides their main purpose.

6. The future of RSS

The fact that lately released or to be released products of the three major Internet companies, Yahoo, Google, and Microsoft, are produced with RSS support and the increase in the number of RSS reader programs and also their features strengthens the expectation of the employment of RSS to increase in the years to come. The developments important in the scope of RSS may be listed as:

  • RSS support has been added to Yahoo Mail beta version.
  • Internet Explorer 7 was released with RSS support incorporated. Microsoft's mail reading program, Outlook Express 2007, will have RSS reading feature. Furthermore Microsoft has applied for two different patents for RSS technology.[5]
  • Beta version of Google Reader has been released. It is expected for Gmail to support RSS in the near future.[6]

7. RSS Applications for University Web Sites

RSS usage will also be very beneficial on university web pages. With the RSS feed developed for METU Announcement and Events System it has been made possible to convey news of current announcements and events to the students, academics and personnel. By integrating RSS reader on to the mail system it can be possible for Webmail users to access news of events and announcements. Also the contents of the Web sites of the Computer Center can be enlarged by gathering info from RSS feeds from the world of informatics, technology, Internet and publishing them.

8. Resources

[1] The Changing Era
[2] What is Web 2.0?
[3] Web Syndication
[4] RSS History
[5] In-depth analysis of Microsoft content syndication platform patent application
[6] 2007 Will Be A Big Year For RSS

A Sample RSS Feed

<?xml version="1.0"?>
<rss version="2.0">
<title>METU Announcements</title>
>http:/ <description>Middle East Technical University Announcements </description>
<pubDate>01 Jan 2007 09:39:21 GMT </pubDate>
<lastBuildDate>01 Jan 2007 09:39:21 GMT </lastBuildDate>
<generator>METU Informatics Group </generator>
<managingEditor> </managingEditor>
<title>Spring Term swimming Courses are starting</title>
<description> If you want to learn how to swim or improve in swimming accompanied by experienced and certificated instructors, we are expecting you at our courses. You may prefer to join groups and/or private sessions. </description>
<pubDate>01 Jan 2007 09:39:21 GMT</pubDate>
<title> 2007-2008 Academic Year exchange award winners </title>
<description> The list of those awarded to become an exchange student at a partnering university for the 2007-2008 academic year is announced on the announcements section of the web page of the Exchange Programs Office.
<pubDate>30 Dec 2006 11:06:42 GMT</pubDate>

Figure 1. Code script of the feed page of METU Announcements.

Presented on Akademik Bilişim 2007.

Mustafa Dalcı

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