Part 2: How Most Webfeeds (RSS) Work

NOTE: This is part 2 of a 12-part CONTENTIOUS tutorial, What Are Webfeeds (RSS), and Why Should You Care? (Full table of contents available on that main page.)

Webfeeds (often called RSS feeds) can take various forms and serve various purposes, but here’s the most common approach. I think of this as the “Headline News” approach to Web surfing

Most webfeeds maintain a running list of the latest content items posted to a site. Each item in the feed includes a headline and often a summary that corresponds to a new piece of content on the Web site. That content usually is text (like an article or weblog entry), but it could also be a discussion thread, cartoon strip, audio file, spreadsheet, or any other kind of online content.

Each item listed in the feed also includes a link back to the original (full) item on the Web site – so if a particular headline or summary catches your interest, you simply click to access the full content. Also in most cases, each time fresh content is added to the site a corresponding new item is automatically added to the webfeed at the same time.

This approach is very similar to the kinds of e-mail newsletters and alerts that many online venues publish. However. webfeeds offer significant advantages over e-mail publishing.

Some online venues offer their full content (complete articles, etc.) via webfeed, rather than headlines and summaries. There are many other approaches to webfeed content, too.