Friday, May 04, 2007

I don't know RSS from Atom

With the growth of the World Live Web wherein sites (such as news sources or blogs) frequently update content, a new machine-friendly description of the content was developed. RSS (which has evolved to be an acronym for Really Simple Syndication) was the first flavor of this syndication syntax. It is basically an XML document. That is, it is a well structured document containing a number of tags describing the nature of the content. Tags might include things like <author>, <title>, or <pubdate>.

Unfortunately, several flavors of the RSS format evolved in the early 2000's, so, yet another syndication scheme, known as Atom, has been developed. Atom, once again, describes a document with XML, however, the specification is a bit more explicit regarding the payload of the content (eg. plain text, escaped HTML, etc.).

You can even see the RSS feed and Atom feed for the SolarPoweredDreams blog. Note, that you may need to right click on the window of those locations and choose "View Source" to actually see the XML.

So, who cares?

Now, there are tools (generally known as "feed readers") that will go out to sites to which you have subscribed and notify you of any new content since the last time you checked the site. These feed readers allow you to surf all your favorite sites from a single interface.

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