Really Simple Syndication (RSS)

Really Simple Syndication (RSS)

Kevin Curran (University of Ulster, UK) and Sheila McCarthy (University of Ulster, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-026-4.ch513
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Abstract

E-mail has been one of the major reasons for the broad acceptance of the Internet, and although e-mail is still a vitally important communication tool, it suffers from an increasing number of problems as a medium for delivering information to the correct audience in a timely manner. The increasing volume of spam and viruses means that e-mail users are forced into adopting new tools, such as spam-blocking and e-mail-filtering software, that attempt to prevent the tirade of unwanted e-mails. Many users are also becoming increasingly reticent to divulge their e-mail address for fear of an impending spam influx. Further to this, recent studies suggest that up to 38% of bona fide e-mail messages are being erroneously blocked by filtering software. In reality, this means that more than a third of e-mails, newsletters, special offers, and event announcements are not reaching their intended audience (Patch & McKinlay-Key, 2004). Therefore, the combination of e-mail issues, such as the increasing difficulties associated with multimedia downloads, such as delays, compression, and data integrity maintenance, could be seen as creating a demand for an alternate, effective, and secure communication methodology. One such alternative technology is Really Simple Syndication (RSS), previously known as Rich Site Summary. RSS allows some elements of Web sites, such as headlines, to be transmitted in unembellished form. When devoid of all elaborate graphics and layouts, such minimalist headlines are quite easily incorporated into other Web sites. In other words, third-party Web sites can insert this content on their site through embedded RSS news readers and thus, provide active news feeds quite easily to their clientele. RSS, termed a lightweight content syndication technology, offers many advantages over streaming and e-mail, and for the consumer, no more difficult to access as the RSS readers are akin to e-mail clients (Byrne, 2003). There is no question that the media is keen to adopt a new communications option, and RSS most certainly can comply. RSS solves a myriad of problems Web masters commonly face, such as increasing traffic, and gathering and distributing news (BBC, 2008). RSS can also be the basis for additional content distribution services (Kerner, 2004). The real benefit of RSS, apart from the added benefit of receiving news feeds from multiple sites, simultaneously, in the viewer, is that all the news feeds (i.e., news items) are chosen by the user. With thousands of sites now RSS-enabled and more on the way, RSS has become perhaps one of the most visible Xtensible Mark-up Language (XML) success stories to date. RSS formats are specified using XML, a generic specification for the creation of data formats. Although RSS formats have evolved since March 1999, the RSS icon (“ ”) first gained widespread use in 2005/2006. RSS democratizes news distribution by making everyone a potential news provider. It leverages the Web’s most valuable asset, content, and makes displaying high-quality relevant news on a site relatively easy (King, 2004). It must be recognized, however, that RSS cannot entirely replace the primary function of e-mail, which is to provide person-to-person asynchronous communications, but it does compliment it in some interesting ways.
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Introduction

E-mail has been one of the major reasons for the broad acceptance of the Internet, and although e-mail is still a vitally important communication tool, it suffers from an increasing number of problems as a medium for delivering information to the correct audience in a timely manner. The increasing volume of spam and viruses means that e-mail users are forced into adopting new tools, such as spam-blocking and e-mail-filtering software, that attempt to prevent the tirade of unwanted e-mails. Many users are also becoming increasingly reticent to divulge their e-mail address for fear of an impending spam influx. Further to this, recent studies suggest that up to 38% of bona fide e-mail messages are being erroneously blocked by filtering software. In reality, this means that more than a third of e-mails, newsletters, special offers, and event announcements are not reaching their intended audience (Patch & McKinlay-Key, 2004). Therefore, the combination of e-mail issues, such as the increasing difficulties associated with multimedia downloads, such as delays, compression, and data integrity maintenance, could be seen as creating a demand for an alternate, effective, and secure communication methodology. One such alternative technology is Really Simple Syndication (RSS), previously known as Rich Site Summary. RSS allows some elements of Web sites, such as headlines, to be transmitted in unembellished form. When devoid of all elaborate graphics and layouts, such minimalist headlines are quite easily incorporated into other Web sites. In other words, third-party Web sites can insert this content on their site through embedded RSS news readers and thus, provide active news feeds quite easily to their clientele. RSS, termed a lightweight content syndication technology, offers many advantages over streaming and e-mail, and for the consumer, no more difficult to access as the RSS readers are akin to e-mail clients (Byrne, 2003). There is no question that the media is keen to adopt a new communications option, and RSS most certainly can comply.

RSS solves a myriad of problems Web masters commonly face, such as increasing traffic, and gathering and distributing news (BBC, 2008). RSS can also be the basis for additional content distribution services (Kerner, 2004). The real benefit of RSS, apart from the added benefit of receiving news feeds from multiple sites, simultaneously, in the viewer, is that all the news feeds (i.e., news items) are chosen by the user. With thousands of sites now RSS-enabled and more on the way, RSS has become perhaps one of the most visible Xtensible Mark-up Language (XML) success stories to date. RSS formats are specified using XML, a generic specification for the creation of data formats. Although RSS formats have evolved since March 1999, the RSS icon (“”) first gained widespread use in 2005/2006. RSS democratizes news distribution by making everyone a potential news provider. It leverages the Web’s most valuable asset, content, and makes displaying high-quality relevant news on a site relatively easy (King, 2004). It must be recognized, however, that RSS cannot entirely replace the primary function of e-mail, which is to provide person-to-person asynchronous communications, but it does compliment it in some interesting ways.

Key Terms in this Chapter

RSS Enclosures: RSS version 2.0 encompasses a powerful feature; it allows an <item> to have an enclosure, this can, in simplistic terms, be likened to an e-mail having an attachment. In reality, enclosures hold huge potential and represent another step in the evolution of content syndication. By incorporating an <enclosure> subelement into an <item>, any RSS element can then describe a video or audio file.

RSS: An acronym for, Really Simple Syndication . Also known in parts by the terms Resource Description Framework (RDF) Site Summary , or Rich Site Summary . RSS has rapidly developed into a prevalent means of sharing content between Web sites.

E-Mail: The term electronic mail shortened itself to E-mail, e-mail, and now email as it became an everyday process. E-mail is a cheap, fast text message delivered electronically over the Internet, or indeed local area networks.

RSS Readers: RSS aggregators can scour designated Web sites for updated feeds at regular intervals. An aggregator can gather updated headlines from the various sites and display them in a variety of ways for users.

Resource Description Framework (RDF): RDF integrates a variety of applications from library catalogs and worldwide directories to syndication and aggregation of news, software, and content to personal collections of music, photos, and events using XML as an interchange syntax. The RDF specifications provide a lightweight ontology system to support the exchange of knowledge on the Web.

Podcasting: The preparation and distribution of predominately audio for download to digital music players, such as the iPod player. A podcast is easily created from a digital audio file that must be saved in an MP3 format and then uploaded to the Web site of a service provider. The MP3 file then receives its own URL, which is inserted into an RSS XML document as an enclosure within an XML item tag. Once a podcast has been created, it is usually registered with content aggregators, such as podcasting.net or ipodder.org, for inclusion in podcast directories. Interested parties can then browse through these categories, or subscribe to specific podcast RSS feeds that will, in turn, download to their audio players automatically when they next connect

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