What is RSS?

RSS is an abbreviation for Really Simple Syndication (also, Rich Site Summary). So what the heck is that? Well, for the first term, the initial two words are likely simple to grasp.

However, some folks might benefit from a little clarification about “Syndication.”

The word syndication comes from “syndicate,” which has a number of meanings. We’re not so concerned about the definition used as “A loose affiliation of gangsters.” Two other concepts that would be more beneficial for our use are as follows (from the American Heritage Dictionary):

  • An agency that sells articles, features, or photographs for publication in a number of newspapers or periodicals simultaneously.
  • A chain of newspapers, or an agency that distributes features to multiple newspapers.

If you recall back in the old days when people read newspapers, you might have enjoyed a favorite comic strip. Well, that comic strip was created by an artist and distributed, or “syndicated,” to all the newspapers that wanted to publish that strip.

So, RSS is a modern electronic equivalent of making words, pictures, videos, music, audio broadcasts, etc. (content), available electronically to interested recipients around the world. RSS is most notably associated with blogs.

And the “really simple” part is that when you publish content on a blog, you don’t have to do anything except publish your stuff and it’s instantly distributed (syndicated) for free and available to others who use RSS readers. (Which are also free).

The cool thing for the people reading your stuff is they don’t even need to visit your website. So, they can read all the latest info from their favorite blogs without even visiting your site by installing a free reader or news aggregator.

However, implied in the term “Rich Site Summary” is the notion that the distributed RSS content may only be summary of the primary content, meaning readers would have to click through to the source (your blog) to read the whole article.

Regardless, the idea is sort of like how you could read your favorite comic in your local newspaper without having to visit the artist’s studio who created it. (Perhaps a newspaper is not a valid example anymore. How many people read them?)