How to Create an RSS Feed
Follow our step-by-step instructions and you'll be creating your own RSS feeds in no time.
What Is RSS?
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 use is in distributing news on the Web.
A Web site that wants to allow other sites to publish some of its content can create an RSS document (also called an RSS feed) and register the document with an RSS publisher. Syndicated content can include data such as news, 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. It's important to remember that RSS is an XML (Extensible Markup Language ) based format and that all RSS feeds must conform to XML v1 standards.
RECOMMENDED READING: For those interested in learning more about XML, we recommend reading "A Technical Introduction to XML" on XML.com
How To Create An RSS Feed
When a Web site publishes an RSS document, the feed will usually contain a summary of the most recent articles and content published on the site. Most feeds will offer readers a headline plus a brief headline description (or summary), along with a description of the source Web site. RSS feeds are created by using tags that are enclosed in brackets, much like HTML code is. For those interested in creating their own RSS feed, all you need to start is a text editor (like Notepad). All you really need to know, at the very minimum, are the tags you must include to make the RSS feed work.
Here we will show you the basic steps to creating an RSS feed, using Webopedia's most recently published articles as our feed headlines. The example uses only the basic tags required to make it work. The first three tags you will need to know how to use are the title, description, and link tags.
title: The title or headline
All About RSS
link: The URL of the Web page where the content (or news story) is located.
description: A sentence that describes the content.
How to create simple RSS Feeds
This code as typed into your text editor would look like this:
These three tags, when combined are called an item. After you have specified the details for each of the three required tags, you then wrap the
If you have several items (headlines) for your feed, you use the same three required tags with each wrapped in its own
Now, that we showed you the tags and the information you need to produce items (the title, description, and URL link) for your RSS feed. Another important aspect of RSS feeds is making sure you identify the feed source (called a channel), which is usually your Web site that publishes the content. This is done using the same three required tags, as above, but you simply omit the item tag. When you leave out the item tag feed readers are able to distinguish between your channel information and your item information. For a Webopedia feed we might use something like this:
You will also need to specify the channel using tags that are inserted at the beginning and end of your document.
Now, at this point we are almost done creating this RSS feed, and so far the process has been relatively easy. We have specified the items and channel for an RSS feed. In finishing up, much like in any HTML or XML file, we also have to specify the document type. In an RSS feed you need to show that the feed meets XML both RSS specifications. Now this particular feed does meet XML 1.0 and RSS 2.0 specifications. We will show this in the code with the following tags:
The does not require a close tag, and it will also be the very first line in your RSS document. The RSS version tag, however, does require a close tag and it needs to be wrapped around everything in your
Based in Nova Scotia, Vangie Beal is has been writing about technology for more than a decade. She is a frequent contributor to EcommerceGuide and managing editor at Webopedia. You can tweet her online @AuroraGG.
This article was originally published on July 18, 2008
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