Raising Awareness

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An Introduction to RSS and Atom

About RSS and Atom

RSS is defined in Wikipedia as "a family of Web feed formats used to publish frequently updated works - such as blog entries, news headlines, audio and video - in a standardized format" [1]. RSS and the related Atom standard can be used to provide alerts and syndication of content. These lightweight standards play an important role in a Web 2.0 environment in allowing content to be easily reused.

How RSS and Atom Are Being Used

News feeds are an example of automated syndication. News feed technologies allow information to be automatically provided and updated on Web sites, emailed to users, etc. As the name implies news feeds are normally used to provide news; however the technology can be used to syndicate a wide range of information.

Examples of use of RSS on organisational Web sites include:

  • The Forestry Commission Scotland which provides RSS feeds for news and information on trail conditions [2]
  • The Old Operating Theatre and Herb Garret which provides RSS feeds for information on news, events, grants received and development plans [3]
  • The Kids and Reading service which provides RSS feeds on latest articles and news [4]

RSS and Atom are widely used by popular Web 2.0 services, allowing the content provided by the services to be viewed without the user having to visit the service. Examples include:

  • Amazon which provides RSS feeds on the availability of new products [5]
  • Flickr which provides a variety of customisable RSS feeds [6]
  • YouTube which provides a variety of RSS feeds about various categorised groups of videos[7]
  • The BBC which provides a large numbers of RSS feeds covering the range of its services [8]

RSS Feeds Readers

As described in [9] there are a large number of RSS reader / RSS aggregation tools available. Examples of different types of RSS readers are summarised below.

  • Google Reader: Google Reader [10] is an example of a popular Web-based RSS reader.
  • Newsgator and NetNewsWire: Netnewswire [11] is an RSS client for the iPhone/iPod Touch mobile devices which is integrated with the Newsgator Web-based RSS client.
  • Netvibes and PageFlakes: Netvibes [12] and PageFlakes [13] are Web-based RSS readers which provide a more graphical style of interface than Google Reader.
  • Feedreader Feedreader [14] is an RSS reader for the desktop.
  • Outlook 2007 Email Client The Microsoft Outlook 2007 email client [15] includes an RSS reader. This will enable you to read RSS feeds in a similar fashion to reading email.


  1. RSS, Wikipedia,
  2. Forestry Commission Scotland,
  3. The Old Operating Theatre and Herb Garret,
  4. Kids and Reading Service,
  5. Product RSS Feeds, Amazon,
  6. Flickr Services, Flickr,
  7. About RSS, YouTube,
  8. News Feeds From The BBC, BBC,
  9. Aggregator, Wikipedia,
  10. Google Reader, Google,
  11. Online News Reader, Newsgator,
  12. Netvibes,
  13. Pageflakes,
  14. Feedreader,
  15. Get Your RSS Feeds For Outlook, Microsoft,
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