If you frequent Weblogs, you've seen the little XML icons inviting you to "syndicate this site", but what does that really mean? A long time ago, newspaper managers realized that if they could use articles and stories from other newspapers in their paper, they could garner more readers because they could cover a wider area than they could with just their own reporters. This is an example of how syndication can work in print.

Online, there are potentially millions of authors writing about millions of topics each day. It can be very difficult to keep track of without some type of automated system. And that's where RSS comes in. Really Simple Syndication (RSS) is an easy way for Web sites to share headlines and stories from other sites. Web surfers can use sophisticated news readers to surf these headlines using RSS aggregators.

A Brief History of RSS

RSS was first invented by Netscape, when they were trying to get into the portal business. They wanted an XML format (RSS .90) that would be easy for them to get news stories and information from other sites and have them automatically added to their site. They then came out with RSS .91 and dropped it when they decided to get out of the portal business.

UserLand Software picked up RSS .91 and continued to develop it, coming out with .92, .93, and .94. At the same time as UserLand, a non-commercial group picked up RSS and developed RSS 1.0 based on their interpretation of the original principles of RSS. They based RSS 1.0 on RDF and re-named it RDF Site Summary. UserLand was not happy with RSS 1.0, and continued development of their version of RSS (Really Simple Syndication), eventually releasing RSS 2.0.