An RSS (Real Simple Syndication) feed for a site owner is a two sided consideration. Site owners can use the feeds to syndicate their own content to other sites or users, or they can subscribe to RSS feeds that provide rich content streams to their site. When properly used, the feeds bolster your credibility in the business to business arena, or it can keep customers in touch with your sites latest content.

RSS feeds work like this. Embedded in an RSS feed website, xml programming defines an RSS feed. This xml programming includes the necessary programming to syndicate content to RSS feed readers, web browsers or websites.

On the receiving end the xml programming is interpreted by programming that presents a collection of links leading back to the syndicating site. These links present content rich topics like headline stories, special marketing programs or articles of interest.

RSS users configure their feed readers, web browsers or websites to keep in touch with a syndicating sites changing content. This creates involved users, and can provide the syndicating site owner with a number of website link backs if other websites are using the syndicating sites RSS feed. These website link backs could improve the syndicating sites search engine ranking.

In theory, a site owner can subscribe to some RSS feeds customized to their site. By maintaining a framework of core content and concentration around these feeds, the site offers varied content to its users without the intensive labor normally required to update content.

Enabling a site to receive RSS feeds is as simple as including an http reference in the html code, a task much simpler than researching, writing and posting fresh original content.

A brief history into the world of RSS

Here is where it gets confusing for most of us. The name “RSS” is an umbrella term for a format that extends several different versions of at least two different formats. The original RSS, (version 0.90) was designed by Netscape. It was considered too complex for its purposes, therefore a simpler version (0.9) was proposed and subsequently dropped when Netscape lost interest in the portal-making business. But 0.91 was picked-up by another business, UserLand Software, which intended to use it as the basis of its weblogging products and other web-based writing software.

Meantime, a third group split off and designed a new format based on what they perceived as the original guiding principles of RSS 0.90 (before it got simplified into 0.91). This was called RSS 1.0. But UserLand wasn’t involved in designing this new format. Because they were an advocate of simplifying 0.90, it wasn’t too exited when RSS 1.0 was released. Rather Than accepting RSS 1.0, UserLand continued to evolve through versions 0.92, 0.93, 0.94, and finally 2.0.

Sounds rather confusing, right? Too many players and not enough game!

Multiple products with different formats and all called “RSS”. Which format should you choose? My clear winner is RSS 2.0.

In conclusion, the uses of feeds are far ranging and their power as a content syndication tool can not be overemphasized. RSS feeds can be a revenue generator for any type of site, whether generating content for pay or giving users fresh reason to visit the site. If you are in the business of doing business on the web, RSS feeds could be an invaluable tool to add to your site.