Re­ally sim­ple syn­di­ca­tion

Finweek English Edition - - Communication & technology - BENE­DICT KELLY

BE­HIND THE PRETTY text and pic­tures on ev­ery web­site is a jum­bled mess of code known as HTML that tells your web browser ex­actly what to dis­play and how to dis­play it. Whether it’s text or images – or even a video – the ba­sic premise is that the web browser down­loads what­ever re­sources it needs to dis­play a page from any source that it’s pointed to.

Each part of the site is de­scribed by a se­ries of de­scrip­tive tags, which tell the browser what the next piece of code does and the browser then knows how to dis­play it.

With the ex­plo­sion of con­tent on the web, the need for some way to see all the con­tent avail­able be­came vi­tal. In the late Nineties then In­ter­net gi­ant Netscape de­vel­oped a sys­tem for pulling con­tent from dif­fer­ent sources and dis­play­ing just the sum­mary of the in­for­ma­tion on their por­tal.

That tech­nol­ogy has evolved into some­thing called RSS: Re­ally Sim­ple Syn­di­ca­tion or Rich Site Sum­mary, de­pend­ing on whom you talk to.

What RSS does is mark the con­tent on a site that needs to be made avail­able for peo­ple to view as a sum­mary and cre­ates a link that al­lows that in­for­ma­tion to be pulled off the page and dis­played in a sim­ple tex­tonly fash­ion.

If you go to www.fin24. co.za you’ll see the en­tire page in all its glory; but if you go to http://tinyurl. com/82tf7 (www.tinyurl. com al­lows you to shrink long web ad­dresses) then you’ll see only the sum­mary of the news head­lines. That’s up­dated as soon as the page changes.

You can use a stand­alone news­reader such as FeedDe­mon www.news­ga­tor.com to sub­scribe to all the dif­fer­ent sites that you fol­low, or if you use In­ter­net Ex­plorer 7, Fire­fox or Opera you can use them to read RSS feeds.

An­other pur­pose of the RSS is to al­low dif­fer­ent web­sites to show what’s avail­able on other sites. You’ll of­ten see head­line news from other sites dis­played and that’s achieved us­ing RSS, as it en­ables news to be up­dated au­to­mat­i­cally.

Pod­casts also use RSS, as the abil­ity to au­to­mat­i­cally up­date when new episodes are avail­able is a key part of pod­cast­ing.

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