Really simple syndication
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.