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Geoff Daily

App-Rising.com covers the development and adoption of broadband applications, the deployment of and need for broadband networks, and the demands placed on policy to adapt to the revolutionary opportunities made possible by the Internet.

App-Rising.com is written by Geoff Daily, a DC-based technology journalist, broadband activist, marketing consultant, and Internet entrepreneur.

App-Rising.com is supported in part by AT&T;, however all views and opinions expressed herein are solely my own.

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May 2, 2008 10:08 AM

What Is RSS? The Way To Stay Up-To-Date

Yesterday was RSS Awareness Day, a day on which bloggers across the world were asked to talk about and promote the value of RSS.

But what is RSS?

To start with, the acronym is most often cited as standing for Really Simple Syndication.

What that means is websites are able to syndicate their content through RSS feeds.

What that means is a website makes an RSS feed available, and then you and I subscribe to it using an RSS reader, which comes in all shapes and sizes. I like Google Reader as it's hosted so I can access it from anywhere, but there are also desktop readers that feature additional functionality.

To subscribe to a feed, simply click on the orange icon with a white dot and two white semi-circles. You can see what it looks like in the upper righthand corner of this site. The icon also often appears in the URL address bar when available. Click on it, copy the link information, and input it into your RSS reader.

OK, this is all well and good, but what does RSS do?

RSS enables websites to offer a feed through which they can push out, or syndicate, new content when it becomes available.

For users, RSS means being able to compile feeds from all your favorite sites into an RSS reader. The reader automatically accepts fresh content pushed to it from these sites. So now instead of having to navigate to each site individually every day, you can see what's new on all of them from a single interface.

There really is no better way to keep track of the dozens of sites you visit on a regular basis, though the downside is if you go a week or two without checking it, you can end up with a mountain of articles to go through. But without RSS I would've likely missed those articles completely.

Another aspect to RSS is its use for media delivery.

Podcasts are often delivered via RSS. You subscribe to the feed of a podcaster, and then whenever they post a new audio or video file, it'll be automatically pushed out to your RSS reader or media player, like iTunes.

The fundamental premise is to provide an avenue through which content owners can push content out to its loyal audience, rather than forcing them to navigate to a site and initiate a download on their own.

And RSS helps empower consumers as if a site is abusing it's RSS feed, sending the equivalent of spam for example, then you can simply unsubscribe to that feed and they can no longer send you content.

RSS is a technology still in its infancy as the vast majority of Internet users have not yet adopted its use, but it introduces a new paradigm in content delivery that should play a significant role in the future of the Internet.

But for now I encourage everyone to find an RSS reader and start subscribing to feeds. If you're someone who likes to stay on top of a lot of sites, you'll soon wonder how you ever survived without it.

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