What is RSS exactly? Maybe this question has been answered satisfactorily before now, but I’m going to give it a try as well. As I said before, I want to occasionally write posts that explain things in non technical, why-is-this-useful-to-me terms. So it makes sense that the first one of these (tagged “non-techy“) is about RSS itself.
In my mind, the simplest explanation of RSS is that it’s sort of like plumbing or electrical wiring. They are in the walls of your home and available at any time. You can use water or electricity for a million different things, but plumbing or wiring don’t do anything all by themselves. But you’re glad you have power and water because they your clothes washer and dryer are useless without them.
So in this analogy, RSS is simply a way of delivering information to you in the same way that pipes and wires deliver water and electricity to you. Similarly, RSS doesn’t do anything all by itself. With home utilities there are three main components: the producer, the conduit and the consumer. Essentially, the water has to come from somewhere else, has to have a way to get to you and you need a way to use it.
The same goes for RSS, like so:
|RSS||Information Source||RSS Feed||RSS Reader|
So for to use RSS to deliver information you need:
- An information source, such as a website
- A RSS feed, which is a web address like http://www.allthingsrss.com/feed/ typically provided by the website with a button
- A RSS reader, which is a tool to gather all that information over time from RSS feeds and present that information to you
And that’s pretty much what RSS is. I plan on creating future entries explaining each of the three items above in further detail and also explaining what is meant by “flavors” of RSS and what RSS is good for.
But wait, what does RSS actually stand for?!? The answer is there’s no one definitive answer. It could stand for “Really Simple Syndication” or “Rich Site Summary”, but honestly I don’t think it matters anymore. These days RSS is a catch-all term that encompasses the whole idea of delivering information to you as new pieces are created rather than a specific technology or term.