So you think you can RSS? Why.

Once upon a time, in a bubble not so far away, there lived a band of government nerds. One day, the gods asked that they build a great network, and they would call it the “information super highway”. At first, there were lots of cool things to do, and places to see on the Net. People were always telling you about new websites to visit, and you had to have a pen handy to write down all the URLs. But with thousands of new Dotcom’s being born each day, it became more and more difficult to find what you were looking for. Eventually, paper lists of URLs were replaced with web browser bookmarks or favorites, and the first search engines and directories began to appear.

Then suddenly, and without warning, the bubble just burst. A shadow of FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt) swept across the web like an angry storm. There were weeks, even months of confusion and darkness. Many people fell, others were just lost. When all the dust settled, there was only Google.

In the years that followed, we came to rely on Google to help us find the sites we were looking for, the information we needed. Google restored order to the web and led many people back on the path to reason, helping them to see the light. Google just worked, maybe too well, and in that time the web grew exponentially.

But before long, people had found more sites than they knew what to do with. Even favorites and bookmarks were becoming completely unmanageable. Although Google was a great search engine, it could not solve this new problem that was beginning to take form. Soon people started complaining that they were missing out on stuff they really liked, since it was impossible to visit all your favorite sites all the time.

Then something strange happened. The web went into syndication. Somehow, somewhere, someone said, “This is crazy. Let the web come to us”.

This represented a major shift as the emphasis was now on the user, their tastes, interests, and more. Sites that wanted to keep their visitors happy began to syndicate their content as simple web feeds. Users could subscribe to these feeds, and receive instant headlines from all their favorite places on the web without having to actually visit a single website.

As the idea grew to be more and more popular, several standards began to emerge. Today, it is not uncommon to see images, links, and icons for XML, RSS 1.0, RSS 2.0, ATOM, and RDF. Each of these feed formats provides the same function: they bring headlines to you, instead of the other way around.

Many new softwares were created to help manage all these feeds, and in the end, much time was saved by all. Some people are even going so far as to aggregate their feeds, which is the process of combining feeds from different sites to make a new and sometimes gigantic master feed. You could then group these by topic, instead of having many different feeds from different sites.

Lots of interesting things can be done with feeds like RSS, more and more websites are offering them, and new ways of reworking all this information are being developed every day. Hopefully this article has helped you begin to understand why.

[ If you enjoyed this article, be sure to check back for the follow up entitled: "So you think you can RSS? How." ]

Comments 2

  1. Darryl Andrado wrote:

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    Posted 21 Dec 2016 at 7:08 pm
  2. Lanny Slosek wrote: is a well-written piece. I just passed this on 12/23/2016 to a coworker who’s been doing a little research of his own on this topic. To show their appreciation, he just bought me a drink! So, I guess I should say: Thanks for the drink!

    Posted 23 Dec 2016 at 6:35 pm

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