What Are RSS Channels and Feeds?

RSS Feeds - What Does It Stand For?
By EM Beck

This article could have been titled "What's So Great about RSS"? Depending on where you start your search, RSS is considered an acronym for "Rich Site Summary", or "Really Simple Syndication". The most widely used terminology is the latter of the two. In my opinion you could also add "Really Super Stuff" to the list. There is a lot of information about RSS on the Internet for it obviously is now a major component of how information is indexed, cross-referenced, and then presented in search engine results. It is so much a part of surfing the net, that it seems that these buttons almost go unnoticed at times, even though they are everywhere.

RSS is a really great tool for anyone wanting to publish content online and then having it syndicated for distribution across the web using data feeds. It is a way to be alerted to content updates for website and blog subscriptions, and also is a retrieval tool on the surfing side. These feeds can be from a website or blog of any size. The best way to think of it is just as another way to package and provide content. This is sort of like the difference between an e-book, a video, and a podcast. They are all possible ways to provide and distribute the same content. In regard to RSS, it is always internet-based technology, and a simple and concise way to slice and dice information. RSS feeds can be mixed or combined content from multiple sources. You also will find some incredible tools online for creating special feeds, and feeds that you can customize to suit your personal style or business needs. One such tool of note is Yahoo Pipes at http://pipes.yahoo.com/pipes.

RSS feeds will be recognized by most people as a way to gather news. To read an RSS feed you will need to have a feed reader, or a feed aggregator. This is software that allows you to collect and display feeds. When you click an RSS subscription button or link, it will instruct you to choose the type of feed reader you want to use. RSS feed readers come in many different forms. Some that you will recognize are web-based like Google Reader, Bloglines, and My Yahoo. You can usually subscribe to feeds via email, too. When you subscribe to feeds, the feed reader will display syndicated content as it is updated by the individual web publishers.

In a little more detail, RSS can be considered the default format for displaying frequently updated content as it changes. These RSS documents are called 'feeds", "web feeds", or "channels". You also will see this as "RSS feed" and "RSS Channel". These automated feeds can be summarized text (partial feeds), or full text (full feeds) and the document information includes other meta description details like the author, time, date, and other publication details. This type of information may be edited or deleted. The current default markup language is a standardized XML file format that is published once, and then feeds can be viewed using different programs that are web-based, desktop-based, or wireless-based via a mobile device like a PDA, smartphone, or tablet computer. You will need a connection to the Internet to read RSS feeds.

The beginning of this technology has been around since the end of the 20th century, but did not become widespread until 2005-2006 with the adoption of certain standards. RSS feeds make content distribution and content gathering effortless and efficient. To research this article, I went back to read up on RSS, and most of the information here can be found in greater detail at http://www.whatisrss.com, or by doing a search on Wikipedia.

It looks like RSS is here to stay, so learn how to use and take advantage of this great and mostly free online tool.

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E.M. Beck is an SEO and online marketer. He writes about a lot of different things online, but also enjoys dreaming up and testing new ways to build website traffic and improve search engine position.

You can learn about his latest projects, LinkWheel Sage™, RSS Mage™, RSS Mage Lite™, and RSS Mage Pro™ at RSS Mage Website

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