Internet Radio to Podcast with Shell Tools
What Is This Thing Called RSS?
RSS stands for Rich Site Summary.
RSS stands for RTF Site Summary.
RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication.
Everything else about RSS is as confused as its acronym. The idea started out as the ability to read headlines from Web sites without having to download the entire front page. RSS is implemented in eXtensible Markup Language (XML), which makes it easily read and written by both humans and computers. That means the format for the RSS file is standardized—unfortunately, the content is not. There are at least four versions of RSS floating around—0.9, 0.91, 1.0 and 2.0—that have similarities, differences and interoperability issues galore. The basic RSS file contains a title, a publication date and a group of items. Each item has its own title, date and link to the file containing the article content. The variations between versions mean that any software wanting to read or write these files has to be programmed specifically to understand each version—there is not enough backward compatibility to let things simply work.
Even the version numbering is odd—version 2.0 is descended from version 0.91, not version 1.0. Version 1.0 is the most feature-rich and extensible, supporting dynamic definitions of the tag names through links to special machine-readable Web pages. Version 2.0 extends the original concept to allow more complex summaries that include images and music rather than only lines of text; it does so through the use of the enclosure tag. Enclosures work like attachments to e-mail messages. When the RSS-aware program downloads the site summary, it notices the attachments and downloads them too. This extends the concept of a summary to being a list of contents, plus the contents itself—far from the original concept of RSS, but this is becoming its biggest use today.
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Phil Salkie is an industrial controls guru who has liked science fiction and radio drama since childhood. He has been a Linux fanatic since 2.0.12 or so and has the most wonderful, tolerant family—e-mail him at email@example.com.
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