RSS = Really Simple Syndication. Right… that doesn’t help much so this article will go into a bit more detail about what RSS is and why it might be useful to you.
To most people, a web browser is the internet. Email through Outlook and the web through IE. What else might there be? Well, there has been more for years, as long as there’s been an internet but most of the “side technologies” have not made it into the mainstream and have been used mostly by serious computer users and hackers (in the best sense of that word).
But, in the same way that iPods are changing what it means to carry a lot of music around and cell phones can do text messaging and web surfing, categories are changing and we ought not be stuck in only the paradigms that are familiar.
I started getting an inkling of this when I first installed the beta of OS X and saw the then crude but effective Sherlock. Sherlock reads database information from various sources out on the internet and displays that information in its window: stock quotes, phone numbers, maps, dictionary definitions. Yet, Sherlock is just a “reader,” it doesn’t have any dictionary definitions or stock information in it: it reads that information from sources out on the internet and it formats the information in a way that’s easier to look at than most web sites. So, dictionary.com on the web or the same data through Sherlock? No brainer. Sherlock wins every time.
What this meant to me was a paradigm shift: the information at dictionary.com was separable from the web site and could be subscribed to by applications like Sherlock. Wow, that was a huge revelation to me at the time.
If you get what I just said about Sherlock reading dictionary.com, then RSS will not be a hard concept to swallow. An RSS reader (sometimes called “newsreader” is simply an application for aggregating (collecting), displaying, and reading feeds. Just as Sherlock can display the content from dictionary.com’s dictionary database, an RSS reader can display the feeds from any web site with a public RSS feed.