Do you get RSS?

I spent quite a bit of time today explaining RSS to a client. While relatively web-savvy, this client had seen those nifty little RSS logos but had never tried one or even spoken to anyone about them. And so the question of actual penetration of this technology came up. Just how many people use RSS? Is it only the techies who have adopted RSS? Surely with the vast numbers of bloggers out there, the average Jane Personal Blogger understands this?

I thought I was behind the times when I first started using a few live bookmarks and then, less than a year ago finally started using an aggregator. I admit to being an above average user of online media but most of my family and friends but I was shocked to discover the two other people in the room knew nothing or very little about RSS.

A little 101

We'll skip over the history and the fight between two very similar technologies and the title behind RSS, you can read all about it on Wiki if you wish. Really Simple Syndication allows someone or a website, to read your syndicated posts in an aggregated, or feed, manner. Using live bookmarks in Firefox or IE, you just drag the little orange icon to the bookmarks toolbar and each new post is just a click away. Or via use of a software called an aggregator - Mozilla, Google, Microsoft etc all offer them - a user can create a list of all "feeds" or blogs that they are following in one place. Again, every time you post a new article the users' list gets update automatically...usually in real-time.

You can also have your content published on another site as a "news" feed. The site sets aside a section on a web page and your content appears, again automatically updated as you add to it. When this is done with your permission it's the start of a mashup when it's without permission it's called "scraping". This is not a good thing.


Back in 2006 Jupiter Research found that 63 percent of large companies planned to syndicate content via Really Simple Syndication (RSS) by the end of 2006.

Are there issues with using RSS?

Absolutely! Publishers tend to ignore keeping tabs on their feeds and broken code can lead to dead ends and blank pages. You don't have absolute control over your content and the feed can be stolen.

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