What is the Definition of RSS?

Acronyms Technology

If you look closely, you will see that most sites have a small icon, usually orange, often accompanied by words like “RSS”, “XML” or “Atom”, similar to the ones shown below. These icons are, in fact, a universal symbol used to indicate that, on that website, it is possible to use RSS feeds.

Thanks to this feature, websites and blogs can spread new content quickly and accurately. For the user, the advantage is being able to be informed of each novelty of their favorite sites. The purpose of this article is to show how RSS allows such a possibility, explain how this pattern came about and clarify its basic functioning.


What is RSS?

The acronym RSS has more than one meaning. Some define it as RDF Site Summary, but the calls it Really Simple Syndication. There are still those who understand it as a Rich Site Summary.

RSS is a standard developed in XML language that allows those responsible for websites and blogs to disseminate news or news about these. For that, the link and the summary of that news (or the news in full) is stored in a file of extension.xml,.rss or.rdf (it is possible to use other extensions). This file is known as a feed or RSS feed.

A person interested in getting news or news from a website should include the link to the website’s feed in an RSS reader program or service (also called an aggregator ). This software (or service, if it is a website) has the function of reading the content of the feeds it indexes and showing it in its interface.

For you to understand better, imagine the following situation: Arthur Dent is a person who likes to read the news / news from several sites, among them: InfoWester, Viva o Linux, BR-Linux and Folha Online.

The problem is that, being a very busy person, Arthur doesn’t have much time to check each address for new content. To make this possible, he uses the RSS services of each of these sites. Through his reader program, he clicks on the name of the indexed site and a list of news from that address appears in a window on the side. This list can show only the headline of the news (this headline is also a link to the story) or it can show all the content, everything depends on the aggregator’s way of working and how the feed is made available.

It is important to note that there are several RSS readers available for free on the internet. There are versions for virtually all operating systems. Each has different resources. For example, there are programs that add to email clients and allow you to read news on software such as Microsoft Outlook and Mozilla Thunderbird, for example. Others are able to check the sites listed at a time interval you define and emit an audible or visual warning as soon as they find new news.

Much more widely used, however, are online readers, with a great emphasis on Google Reader. The advantage of services like this is that you can access the feeds you subscribe to from any computer with internet access, regardless of the operating system.

The image below shows Google Reader in action. Notice that the list of subscribed feeds appears in the left column. When any item in this column is selected, its content appears on the right:

How did RSS come about?

The RSS standard emerged in early 1999 and is the brainchild of the Netscape team, who later “dropped” the project because they did not find it viable. A smaller company, UserLand, decided to continue RSS to apply it to its blogging tools. For this, the developers decided to simplify the code and, when this task was completed, RSS 0.91 was released. Netscape had conducted its work until version 0.90.

In parallel with UserLand’s work, a group of developers continued RSS 0.90 based on the RDF standard (see the topic below). Soon, version 1.0 was released by this group. UserLand, however, continued its work, releasing versions like 0.92 and 0.93 until it finally reached version 2.0. Certainly, UserLand would give the latter 1.0, but this sequence had already been adopted by the other group.

In fact, there are more groups working with RSS. That is why there are so

What is RDF?

RDF stands for Resource Description Framework. It is an XML-based specification that aims to automate and expand resources for the internet through information representation. The RDF is based on the work of a number of groups that develop information technologies. This means that RDF was not created exclusively for RSS feeds, as many people think. In fact, if we study RDF in depth, we will see that it is useful in various applications, such as search engines and information sharing mechanisms.

As it is a complex subject and which is outside the scope of this article, the RDF will not be detailed here. For more information, visit

What is Atom?

Unlike RSS, Atom is not an acronym, but it is also a format for disseminating news. Some say that this project was initially a proposal to unify RSS 1.0 and RSS 2.0. Atom is also based on XML, but its development is considered more sophisticated. The group that works there even has the support of large corporations, like Google.

The vast majority of feed aggregators available to the user support both RSS and Atom versions.


A simple and efficient idea. This is a good way to define what the RSS standard represents. As you may have noticed, this is a very useful resource for accessing specific content amid the tangle of information that the internet has become. Through a single interface, you can view news or learn news from a variety of sources and read only the content that interests you.