News Feeds For Your Organisation


The need for Web providers to disseminate news has been recognised for some time. An early pioneer was the BBC which provided several mechanisms for reading news services, including scrolling news tickers and software for embedding news within third party Web sites.

Such approaches made use of proprietary solutions. This meant that anyone wishing to develop similar systems had to develop their own file format and delivery mechanisms. This would require unnecessary duplication of effort by the service providers and require users to install software for each provider.

RSS - A Simple Lightweight Solution

RSS was developed as a simple lightweight news syndication format. RSS was initially developed as a syndication format for the My.Netscape portal - allowing service providers to enable their content to be embedded in personalised portals. The success of RSS was helped by the adoption of the format by the Blogging community, who saw the potential of RSS as a means of syndicating Blog articles within other Blogs and allowing Blog articles to be read by a variety of applications.

Viewing And Creating RSS

Although initially used to integrate third party content into a Web page, we quickly saw the development of desktop RSS viewers which can display RSS feeds in scrolling tickertapes, pop-up alerts, etc.

There are several approaches to creating RSS. Simple RSS editors are available, including Web-based editors and standalone applications. RSS can also be created directly from Content Management Systems or from other backend systems. RSS can be transformed from other formats, such as converting HTML to RSS or RSS to HTML. Creation of RSS files is normally carried out by the service provider, but third party services and tools exist which can be used to create RSS feeds.

RSS Grows Up

RSS is now a very popular format which can be used in a wider range of applications. RSS is being used to receive news of dynamic searches, to read email, to keep track of parcels, etc. One new area is Podcasting, which can allow audio files, such as radio shows, to be automatically copied to MP3 players when new files are released.

One area of uncertainty with RSS which should be mentioned is its name. Although initially standing for Rich Site Summary, RSS was then adopted by the Semantic Web community who coined the term RDF Site Summary to refer to RSS 1.0. However critics argued this was too complex and developed a simpler alternative known as Really Simple Syndication or RSS 2.0.

It is too soon to say which form of RSS will win - the extensibility of RSS 1.0 or the simplicity provided by RSS 2.0. Fortunately many RSS tools support both versions. If you wish to make use of RSS the best advice would be to ensure that you can create either format from your Content Management System.