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RSS is the acronym used to describe the de facto standard for the syndication of Web content. RSS is an XML-based format and while it can be used in different ways for content distribution, its most widespread usage is in distributing news headlines on the Web. A Web site that wants to allow other sites to publish some of its content creates an RSS document and registers the document with an RSS publisher. A user that can read RSS-distributed content can use the content on a different site. Syndicated content can include data such as news feeds, events listings, news stories, headlines, project updates, excerpts from discussion forums or even corporate information.

Because there are different versions of RSS, the term RSS is most frequently used as a name to mean the syndication of Web content, rather than as an acronym for its founding technology. When using the name RSS the speaker may be referring to any of the following versions of Web content syndication:

  • RDF Site Summary (RSS 0.9, RSS 1.0)
  • Rich Site Summary (RSS 0.91, RSS 1.0)
  • Really Simple Syndication (RSS 2.0)

When using the term RSS, most will use it in reference to Rich Site Summary or the previous version called RDF Site Summary. When referring to Really Simple Syndication, it will usually be called RSS 2.0, not RSS.  There are several versions of RSS available, with the most commonly implemented version being RSS 0.91.  The most current version, however, is RSS 2.0 and it is backward-compatible with RSS 0.91. RSS was originally developed by Netscape. The RSS 2.0 specification was authored by Dave Winer.

Compare with Atom, an alternative open source XML-based Web content and metadata syndication format.

See also "How to Create an RSS Feed" in the Quick Reference section of Webopedia.

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