Whoever originated the phrase, "Keep It Simple, Stupid" didn't have Really Simple Syndication in mind.
But for an important segment of electronic publishing, RSS is going to be the next important technology development, even if a lot of people don't understand the term today.
It is a simple concept: RSS lets companies distribute information electronically and it's going to be a hit because it solves a major problem: the growing pile of unwanted email. RSS bypasses the issue by sending information, such as news, from a vendor's Web site or an electronic newsletter, directly to a user who wants it. As one technologically knowledgeable person [my wife] put it after I explained it, "It's like VPN."
Exactly. RSS is a private line from sender to receiver just as a virtual private network provides data and voice communication between different parties who don't have to jump into the public network.
As someone who has been writing an electronic newsletter for several years and watched all the vagaries of email--spam filters, address changes, people that drop off the mailing list for no apparent reason--RSS has appeal for it promises that people who would like to receive my newsletter actually will.
We're all in the same overloaded electronic boat and RSS looks like an effective paddle for steering.
The current generation of RSS uses XML files to provide the feeds from the provider to the consumer. And although RSS often gets lumped into a discussion of blogs, the news feeds are increasingly available on standard Web sites, such as Microsoft's which provides a variety of information, including headlines and newsgroup discussion subjects, via RSS aggregators. To get RSS feeds, users need to download software from one of these aggregators to their desktop computers.
I'm wary of signing up for RSS feeds from vendors since I follow many companies and have this nightmare in which alerts from their feeds keep going all day like machine gun fire. For the same reason, I don't sign up for their information services to begin with. With large companies, that's often an invitation for data dumps.
But as technology lets RSS be more precisely controlled, it will become a standard way of getting information electronically. After all, I spend a lot of time on my newsletter; I'd like to know that my readers' pictures aren't going to show up on milk cartons somewhere.
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