RSS (most commonly referred to as Really Simple Syndication ) is a group of web feed formats used to publish or updated information such as news headlines. The RSS feed allows the use to subscribe to the feed by entering into the reader the feed’s URL or by clicking an RSS icon in a web browser that initiated the subscription process. The RSS reader check the user’s subscribed feeds regularly for new work, downloads any updates that it finds, and provides a user interface to monitor and read the feeds.

RSS formats are specified using XML, a generic specification for the creation of data formats. Although RSS formats have been available since as early as March 1999, it was not until between 2005 and 2006 when RSS gained widespread usage. Also at this time the familiar “curved” lines over a white dot icon was decided upon by several major Web browsers. This symbol is still currently in use.

The RSS formats were preceded by several attempts at web syndication that did not achieve widespread popularity. The basic idea of restructuring information about websites goes back to as early as 1995, when Ramanathan V. Guha and others in Apple Computer’s Advanced Technology Group developed the Meta Content Framework. For a more detailed discussion of these early developments, see the history of web syndication technology.

RDF Site Summary, the first version of RSS, was created by Guha at Netscape in March 1999 For use on the portal. This version became known as RSS 0.9. In July 1999, Dan Libby of Netscape produced a new version, RSS 0.91 which simplified the format by Removing RDF elements and incorporating elements from Dave Winer’s scripting News Syndication format. Libby also renamed RSS “Rich Site Summary” and outlined further development of the format in a “futures document”.

This would be Netscape’s last participation in RSS development for eight years. As RSS was being embraced by web publishers who wanted their feeds to be used on the My. portal and other early RSS portals, Netscape dropped RSS support from Netscape in April of 2001 during the time of AOL’s takeover of the struggling web browser. AOL also removed documentation and tools that supported the format.

Two entities emerged to fill the void with neither Netscape’s help or approval: The RSS-DEV Working Group and Winer. In December of 2000, Winer released RSS 0.92 a Minor set of changes aside from the introduction of the enclosure element, which permitted audio files to be carried in RSS feeds and helped spark podcasting.

In September 2002, Winder released a major new version of the format, RSS 2.0, That redubbed its initials Really Simple Syndication. RSS 2.0 removed the type attribute Added in the RSS 0.94 draft and added support for namespaces. To preserve backward compatibility with RSS 0.92, namespace support applies only to other content included within an RSS 2.0 feed, not the RSS 2.0 elements themselves.

Because neither Winer nor the RSS-DEV Working Group had Netscape’s involvement In the development of RSS, they could not not make an official claim on ownership of the RSS name or format. This had fueled an ongoing controversy in the syndication development community as to which entity was the proper publisher of RSS.

Despite this, the development of RSS and similar feed systems continued unabated. One Product was the creation of an alternative syndication format called, Atom, that began in June 2003. The Atom syndication format has , which was created in part by a desire to break free of RSS issues, has been adopted as IEF Proposed Standard RFC 4287.

In July 2003, Winer and UserLand Software assigned the copyright of the RSS 2.0 specification to Harvard’s Berkam Center for Internet & Society where he had just begun a term as a visiting fellow. At the same time, Winer launched the RSS Advisory Board with Brent Simmons and Jon Udell, a group whose purpose was to maintain and publish the specification and answer questions about the format.

In December 2005, the Microsoft Internet Explorer team and Outlook team announced that they were adopting the feed icon first used in the Mozilla Firefox browser. A few months later, Opera Software followed suit. This effectively made the orange square with white radio waves the industry standard for RSS and Atom feeds replacing the large variety of icons that had previously been sued to identify syndication data.

In many ways, this is where the history and development of RSS stops. Only a couple of years after the adoption of the familiar orange and white icon for RSS feeds, social networking sites such as Facebook, my Space, and Twitter began to grow in popularity. In fact, many RSS software sites stopped updating their software around 2007 and although some sites still provide inks to the feed, RSS is barely ever mentioned anymore. Some sites still display the icon, but no longer provide an updated feed. It’s no surprise that web surfers have flocked in droves to Facebook where it is possible to receive multiple news feed updates via the “”like” button. In essence, the “like” button has replaced the RSS XML link which provided the update feeds. Not only can Facebook users obtain live feeds from news sources, they can likewise receive live feeds of news from friends, families, companies, and even celebrities.

Netflix has still managed to put the RSS feed to productive use. If a user subscribes to the Netflix RSS XML feed, the user can view his/her Netflix queue without having to sign into their account. This a truly imaginative and appopriate usage of the RSS feed which allows a user to receive updated information quickly as soon as they are logged into their browser without the need to type in the sites URL and then login into their individual account.

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