In this article you will be shown RSS standard, history and versions, also you will get familiar with the new next generation standard which is ATOM. Also you will get a brief history of Blogs, News Readers and its evolution, and the strong relationship between blogs and RSS. Most, if not all, of the news sites and agencies support a news feed link to the latest news or breaking news. Actually I consider the website that's not showing the news feed magic icon a poor one, you will find in CodeProject a feed for the latest articles and site news, so everybody should be familiar with the concept of news feeds, both developers and novice users!
Each and every morning, I visit BBC website and check the latest added news, then I move to MSDN just published articles, then I jump to CodeProject and check the latest articles, so ain't you find this process so tedious? Actually I suffer from this sometimes, I get blue, I guess you do the same, so what if you have some way to get all the latest content of one website or thousands of websites using some utility, then you can go offline but you have all the cream of one site or more! I think it would be a great utility. This tool is as important to web site content as Outlook Express to mail server, you grab all your mails and then go offline, you can check them out anytime.
What is to be shown ?
This article is divided into two parts; the first one shows you the history and evolution of RSS standard and the next standard that emerged from RSS which is ATOM, and what a news reader is. The first part will be clear for everybody, even for non-developers. Second part shows you how to make your own news feed and how to consume the others' feeds and show the cream or the latest contents of one site into your own website.
Weblogs and bloggers
Blog is a shortcut for WebBlog. It’s the process of "logging" into a website. Blog is a medium in which an author writes a journal-style web site and the readers can respond to the material or topics provided. Bloggers are the individuals who are authoring or responding to topics provided in a blog. Blogs serve a wide spectrum of interests ranging from politics to chemical issues!. You can check out some blogs at <A title="MSDN Blogs" onclick=window.event.cancelBubble=true; href="http://blogs.msdn.com/" target=_blank>MSDN.
Get your blog now free
Actually, nobody now has no blog, you can now have your blog and register and record your thoughts, upload your weekend pictures, write your technical notes, write quotes you like, just get your blog and have a corner to express your own thoughts. Today, you have many free blog engines. You can check out Blogger, Blogging. You can view my blog here.
.NET Most Known Blogging Engines
- dasBlog : das blog stores data inside XML files.
- .Text : stores data using SQL Server. It's open source project so that you can download it and view code. You can install and configure it. You can view the workspace of .Text on gotdotnet website. .Text is the most powerful blogging engine as it is the driver of ASP.NET blogs.
What is RSS ?
Imagine that you post an entry to a blog of some type and you wait for a response to the entry you have been posted, you may get response after 1 min, or 1 hour, if even worse after 1 or 3 days; so you are asked to visit the blog again and more again to check if you’ve got some answer to your question!! So how Poor and Boring!!? What do you think of some type of technology to provide you with all the content of some weblog or any other website in a standard, agreed on, well-known format. It’s RSS, it’s the Buzzword! You can get the cream of one site or blog using a program which falls under the umbrella of News Aggregator applications. Websites including weblogs provide a feed to its content (or top useful content) by providing a dynamically generated RSS document available at a URL, RSS document is nothing but an XML file ( WoW !!, XML again). It seems that each new technology or standard is based heavily on XML.
RSS document can contain any of the following contents and more:
- Weather Conditions
- Stock Market
- Latest Post in Forums
- Publishers’ Books
- Online Bidding
- Articles List
- Latest News
- Suppliers’ Products
- Blogs Entries
- Technology Related Issues
RSS Aggregators and News Readers
RSS Aggregator is the same as News Reader, so what is the News Reader, it's an application that reads RSS documents, and lists items of the document in a readable polished view. You can subscribe in an RSS feed by simply entering the URL of the output RSS document into your RSS Aggregator and you’re done now .. ! You have the most valuable contents of that site into your fingertips, you can filter content, read brief about some launched software programs or products, if you like the brief, you can go directly to the full content. Moreover You can search old items. There are many RSS Aggregators in the market as NewzCrawler, SharpReader, SlashDot. SharpReader is free but NewzCrawler is much more stronger and usable than SharpReader, but it is not for free. Furthermore, you can get an online News Aggregator, it’s nice when you need to check out your feeds from anywhere, but the downside is that you need to login to check your feeds, you don't have the offline reading feature of desktop news reader. You can check out NewsGator. You can view a list of almost all the available news aggregators here, all these aggregators support RSS 2.0 ( more about versions later ).
RSS Readers Common Features
- Most RSS Aggregators Applications make you feel that you are just reading your e-mail, just as you use MS Outlook, or any other Mail Program, most of them has a tree on the left listing all the feeds (Channels) and to the right the items of the channel.
- RSS Aggregator has an embedded browser, so you follow the full story right from the same application; no need to copy and paste the URL and open it in an external window, it uses IE infrastructure behind the scenes.
- Now I can read all the technical articles I need right from my desktop, organized and just to the point, no trivial issues, all you need to do is to get the URL of the RSS document and just add new channel to my RSS aggregator application and I am done.
Most Sites provide or syndicate content using RSS, for example, News agencies such as Wired, Cnet, Yahoo, NPR News, Reuters, CNN, BBC, BBCArabic. You can read all these content right from your desktop, you just need to pick them all at once, then disconnect and you have all that great content of those giant sites. How Great and How Amazing ?! It saves a great deal of time and tedious revisiting of your most visited sites.
You need to check out syndic8 or blogdigger to get more RSS Links.
RSS Search Engines
Feedster is the most known Search Engine to search RSS documents. Feedster Spiders all RSS documents and blogs and returns you with a full list including all the search results returned, you will be amazed when you find its interface is so similar to Google! You can also view Blogdigger, it's one of the best weblogs search engine.
What RSS stands for ?!! , It’s not an Easy Question !!
- Netscape created the original format of RSS 0.90. It was the first version and it stands for “RDF Site Summary” or “Rich Site Summary”, NetScape provided RSS 0.90 for use in their portal activities, but others saw more effective uses. Userland Software adopted the idea and was the first company to use RSS commercially in Weblog products.
- RSS 0.90 was based on RDF “Resource Description Framework” provided by W3C, RDF is pretty complex, so a new version was launched by Userland and they called it RSS 0.91. It was RDF-Free. Userland launched many new versions including 0.92, 0.93, and 0.94, and to prove their trend of simplicity, they made RSS stands for “ Really Simple Syndication “
- A group of developers appeared and re-adopted RDF version (RSS 0.90), because they saw that it’s more flexible than RSS Userland versions, After some hard work they published RSS 1.0 which stands for “RDF Site Summary”, and back to versions and shortcuts MESS !!
- Userland saw that RSS 1.0 was about to displace RSS 0.94 so they published a new version RSS 2.0 which stands for “Really Simple Syndication” as well. That is where we stand today !
- So we have two threads; one that’s RDF based and the other of Userland which is not based on RDF. So you have two different technologies sharing the same name with different version numbers. I was first confused because I believed that RSS 2.0 is the sequel of RSS 1.0. What a mess !!
ATOM , a new syndication age
A new group of developers didn’t like that mess so they are working in a project called Atom. It’s a new syndication technology . Atom solves almost all the RSS problems including versions mess, extensible by anybody ( just like XML is ), Atom technology is similar to both RSS 1.0 and RSS 2.0, it promises to provide a standard Archiving format, and some APIs which is called ( Atom API ). Some websites are now emitting their syndications in Atom format. Most RSS Aggregators support all RSS versions, there are a few ones supporting Atom.
BlogRoll , OPML Language
What do you think of the importance of Playlist to Multimedia files (items), ain’t it great? BlogRoll is simply a collection of blog feeds gathered together, most bloggers provide blogrolls for their visitors. This provides a great deal of links to the visitor who’s interested in a specific topic. I see it as a playlist. Outline Processor Markup Language is an XML ( again ) based language to write blogRolls. Most of Aggregators today can read BlogRolls and extracts the contained feeds easily. How great!
As you have seen RSS and Blogs are state of art, every website should provide a link to RSS or ATOM feed. You should get a news reader, install it, add channels to your news reader, be updated. In part two of this article I will show you have to consume the others' feeds and show items in your website, and you will be able to create your own site feed, we will also analyze the schema of RSS versions and Atom.