RSS provides the standard for reading Internet news
Search engines do a good job in finding specific information on the Internet but are not so good when you want to find news on the Internet. Either you have to visit many different news sites or add yourself to yet another e-mail subscription list and suffer e-mail overload. RSS, a standard for syndicating news feeds, is becoming a popular way for web sites and individuals to plug into a stream of news headlines from thousands of different sources. RSS defines a format for syndicating content and metadata over the Internet and is one of the most widely used XML standards. (The acronym stands for Really Simple Syndication or Rich Site Summary depending on your preference). An RSS Channel created by a publisher can be added to a Web page or read by an RSS newsreader. This popular format is probably the first example of an XML standard that most users will experience and interact with. It augurs well for the future of XML that it manages and formats news feeds so effectively. RSS was designed to syndicate news items published by commercial organisations. (For example, Bloor Research provides RSS links to syndicate articles from its Web sites). The rapid increase in the use of RSS is due to its popularity in the Weblog community. Technorati, a California-based Internet research think tank, estimates that there are 750,000 Weblogs - many of them arising among employees inside corporations. Many of these Weblogs provide RSS syndication. Two facilities were needed to transform the RSS syndication standard from a niche product to a generally useful and popular service: tools to organise the news feeds into a standard format (newsreaders) and tools to find content in RSS format. Free or low cost newsreaders include BlogExpress, BlogStreet and FeedReader. The XML standard allows newsreaders to organise the wide range of syndicated information into a single structure and format - making it far easier to organise and read the information. New sources are easy to add as a news website or a weblog often provide the syndication link on the Web page as an orange XML logo. You link the news feed to your newsreader by copying the XML shortcut and pasting it into your newsreader. These syndication links are starting to pop up everywhere; for example, the Daily Telegraph provides a selection of RSS news feeds on various topics.
Specialized search engines such as Feedster and Daypop provide the other important tool to identify news services and Weblogs. You can also convert the results of a search made with Feedster and Daypop into a news feed. Every time you synchronize the news feed in the newsreader the search results are renewed.
Syndicated news feeds are going to be important in feeding users with highly selective and up-to-date information while avoiding information overload. The control that each user has over the subscription process avoids the problems of spam and the newsreaders will often prevent advertising pop-ups. These tools provide an embryonic 'personal newspaper' that has so often been predicted by futurologists.
Copyright 2004. Originally published by IT-Director.com, reprinted with permission. IT-Director.com provides IT decision makers with free daily e-mails containing news analysis, member-only discussion forums, free research, technology spotlights and free on-line consultancy. To register for a free e-mail subscription, click here.
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