RSS: It's a Really Simple XML Thing

XML has many widely accepted uses and applications. One of these is RSS, or Really Simple Syndication. Recently tasked with a project where I opted to customize a WordPress RSS feed, I discovered the easier part of the whole project was building and formatting the RSS code. Prior to this project, I only knew of RSS and what it does. I had no experience of the reading, writing, or editing of RSS files. Here’s what I took away from working with RSS:


There is a range of versions to choose from when publishing an RSS feed. Like many other web technologies, the most recent version isn’t necessarily the most widely used. Sources varied on what versions were most popular, but in the end, I chose to utilize RSS 2.0. The spec is over seven years old, and thus any credible RSS reader supports it. Since RSS files are simply defined XML structures, you can create any valid XML elements in your file. However, RSS 2.0 and other more recent versions support additional predefined elements that applications can be programmed to utilize.


RSS is really straightforward. Actually, per its name, it is really simple. You can grasp the basic format of RSS without even viewing spec; just look at a properly formed RSS feed. You simply create a channel element with specific child elements to define your RSS channel. Inside a channel, you declare one or more item elements that define what items your RSS channel contain. It’s really that easy.


RSS has a very small footprint. This is likely a contributing reason it has become a great aggregation tool for the vast amounts of information available on the Internet. Even after adding various custom non-standard elements to my RSS feed, the file size for my RSS feed came in under 2kb. There is a lot of information crammed in that small space, and coupled with the RSS format makes this information easy to extract and use.

Categorized as XML

By Michael Marr

Michael Marr is a staff writer for WebProNews

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