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January 11, 2006

What Is RSS?

Today, I was asked the question what is RSS? It occurred to me that many people are not familiar with the term or understand how the technology works between websites and web visitors, so I thought I’d discuss the issue.

RSS or really simple syndication is not as you might think an example of stick man cartoons being syndicated through national newspapers but the syndication of one website’s content to another website or RSS feed reader.

As you are reading this post, a number of other visitors are reading this same post through their RSS feed reader. is an example of a web based RSS feed reader.

The advantage to the visitor who is using an RSS feed reader is that you know if the content on a website or blog has been updated without actually visiting the website. RSS feed readers are designed in such a way that the visitor can review a large number of feeds all at the same time. Some people have 50, 100, or several hundred feeds in their feed reader. The design is much more efficient than email, in that typically an email user does not know when they are going to receive an email, for example a monthly newsletter, but with RSS the visitor can ask for the content when they are ready to receive the information. RSS makes the process of monitoring content updates much more efficient. An RSS feed can be used by a visitor or website to request for updates to a website on a periodic basis or when a visitor returns to their feed reader.

What’s interesting is that the demand for content from publishers increases with RSS, instead of cursing more regular email newsletters than once a month, an RSS feed reader might begin to question the same content provider’s ability to produce content when they are not writing every few days.

The marketing opportunity is that your customers will be more likely to read your content, as you can break up the content into chucks over time, and also the RSS reader is able to see more content then they could ever do before.

Posted by johncass at January 11, 2006 3:16 PM

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I was asked this question today as well and gave a similar answer. But I don't think people will have to worry about the technology for much longer.

How many people give even a glancing thought to TCP/IP? It's baked in all over the place, but no one thinks about it.

Frankly, most Web users don't think about HTML, Java or Cascading Style Sheets, but they're all part of an Internet user's lives.

Posted by: Chuck T at January 11, 2006 4:45 PM

Hopefully your right Chuck and the guru's at Microsoft, Google, Yahoo!, Firefox and more make RSS or webfeeds easy to use for the other 95% who don't use RSS at the moment. (pew's last numbers)

Posted by: John Cass at January 11, 2006 9:54 PM

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