RSS: Background & Uses

You may have noticed that RSS is now available on the AccountingWEB site. RDF Site Summary (RSS) is a format for syndicating any news and other content that can be divided into separate items. It is similar to XML with significant differences for programmers.

Once items are converted to RSS format and integrated into a feed, RSS-aware programs can poll that feed for changes and update content as necessary. These RSS-aware programs are called news aggregators.

RSS creates multiple points of entry to a single item of content instead of spawning multiple copies of that single

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item of content across the Internet. You can read RSS feeds on a computer or even PDAs and cell phones. Voice updates are even possible.

RSS is basically a database of content headlines and descriptions. After creating and validating your standardized RSS content, you register it on any aggregator allowing it to pull your content. Any site using a particular aggregator will grab and display your feed automatically. When you update your item of content, all external subscriber sites also update.

O’Reilly Network’s new Meerkat Open News Wire service aggregator pulls currently available technical RSS content feeds. It also filters new stories using time, topic, keywords, and regular expressions. Dale Dougherty, president and CEO of O’Reilly Network, talked about the advantages of RSS with WebReference.com.

Future versions of RSS will further “democratize” the Internet’s most valuable asset, content, according to WebReference.com. Dougherty said, “What interests me about RSS is the ability to begin to monitor the flow of new information on the net. We all know what sites exist; what we really want to know is how often sites generate new information. As a writer and editor, I thought Meerkat would be valuable to watch what was happening in different technical communities. What I especially like about RSS and looking at feeds from hundreds of sites, is that you can see the Web work at a grassroots level. I thought that Meerkat is the kind of tool I’d want to keep track of what is going on. We realized that this wasn’t just useful to editors but to anyone who wants to be able to respond to new information.”

Dougherty continued on WebReference.com, “I’m not sure where Meerkat will take us, but it feels like it’s opening up a remarkable new view of the Web. We’d really like to see more and more sites become RSS-enabled. RSS can do for them what Yahoo did for them in 1994, which is drive traffic by letting others know what you are doing. The difference is now we can notify others not just of a new site, but of new stories – new activity on our site.”

Sites such as www.Mobilerss.net aggregate different feeds to mobile devices specifically. FreeRange Communications allows you to update your news, weather, stocks, sports, and blogs at www.freerangeinc.com. Their aggregator FreeNews works on Blackberry, Sony Ericsson, Symbian, Palm Treo, Nokia, Samsung, Motorola, LG, or any Java phone. You can sign up to receive the most current news from Reuters on your mobile or PDA.

You can sign up to receive feeds from AccountingWEB.com on your computer at www.accountingweb.com/rss/rss.html. Follow the steps shown at to begin receiving your RSS feeds.

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