Introduction to RSS
Publishing your RSS feed is just the beginning. RSS, really a mini database containing headlines and descriptions of what's new on your site, is a natural for layering on additional services. In addition to displaying your news on other sites and headline viewers, RSS data can flow into other products and services like PDA's, cell phones, email ticklers. and even voice updates. Email newsletters can easily be automated with RSS. Even more compelling, affiliate networks and partners of like-minded sites (say a collection of Linux sites) can harvest each other's RSS feeds, and automatically display the new stories from the other sites in the network, driving more traffic throughout.
In this Web-like way RSS encourages in context multiple points of entry to one primary article, rather than multiple copies of the same article (which introduces its own maintenance problems). As we've seen, the sites with the most backlinks win, and those with the freshest content also win. RSS creates a win-win situation. Once you have data in a standardized format, new forms of content distribution channels are only limited by your imagination, and scripting ability.
There are a number of RSS news aggregators out there that automatically suck up RSS files from content providers and present the news in a variety of ways (my.netscape.com, my.userland.com, xmltree.com, moreover.com). Many make it easy to drop an RSS feed into your site. In fact, O'Reilly's new Meerkat Open News Wire service, is an example of what can be done with RSS and some clever code. Meerkat aggregates the currently available technical RSS feeds, and filters new stories by time, topic, keywords, and even regular expression. Narrowing the new stories down to your interests is a breeze, all entirely automated. O'Reilly Network's President and CEO Dale Dougherty:
"What interests me about RSS is the ability to begin to monitor the flow of new information on the net. We all know what sites exist; what we really want to know is how often sites generate new information. As a writer and editor, I thought Meerkat would be valuable to watch what was happening in different technical communities. What I especially like about RSS and looking at feeds from hundreds of sites is that you can see the Web work at a grassroots level. I thought that Meerkat is the kind of tool I'd want to keep track of what is going on. We realized that this wasn't just useful to editors but to anyone who wants to be able to respond to new information.
I'm not sure where Meerkat will take us, but it feels like it's opening up a remarkable new view of the Web. We'd really like to see more and more sites become RSS-enabled. RSS can do for them what Yahoo did for them in 1994, which is drive traffic by letting others know what you are doing. The difference is now we can notify others not just of a new site, but of new stories -- new activity on our site."
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