RSS: what is it, how to enjoy it?

Behind this abstruse term is a practical and easy-to-use tool for broadcasting content, and at the other end of the chain, keep abreast of updates to its favorite sites.

How to explain simply what an RSS feed is?

It is a special text file whose content is produced automatically (except in exceptional cases) depending on the updates of a website. This content is left to the free choice of the producer of the feed, but very generally consists of the titles of the updates (for example: "new promotion"), corresponding hypertext links, and descriptions, in a few lines, of these updates Day (eg "Prizes sacrificed on memory for three days.").

The term RSS refers to a structuring convention (like Atom, which we will leave aside here) of the files we have just described, guaranteeing that they can be disseminated in a format that can be understood by as many people as possible. Content "). Thus, a webmaster can decide, by an appropriate tool, to import the content of the "RSS feed" into his own web page, and more broadly anyone can, by a similar manipulation, receive in his mailbox or Via dedicated software the latest updates of a site proposing the diffusion of its content "in RSS".

What is the interest for the flow diffuser?

The answer is, again, simple - make known the updates of his site - but troubling: is this task not perfectly fulfilled by sending a newsletter? Compared to newsletters, the RSS feed has several advantages: it does not require massive e-mailing, but just to produce (automatically) the RSS file with each update or group of updates; It anticipates future developments in the consumption of information on the Web (we will come back to this); It can be aggregated with other feeds - it is the role of "RSS readers" to allow subscribing to RSS feeds (such as subscribing to newsgroups or a page on a Social network for example), then to display them in an aggregated way in a customizable interface.

But the RSS feed also presents an impoverishment in relation to the newsletter, and therefore can not replace it altogether: the broadcaster no longer has control over the presentation of content; It is not possible - or less easily - to insert advertising other than textual, or more broadly visual effects; The RSS feed has (often) to be "drowned" among other similar streams, thus reducing the impact of a particular update.