Monday, February 28, 2005


All About RSS, XML, and Atom News Feeds


What is headline syndication?

Many web sites and weblogs (blogs) update often with new stories and posts. If you track news from multiple online sources or need to stay informed on specific subjects, it’s a challenge to keep up with all the latest news and most recent updates. More and more content publishers, media outlets, and bloggers are turning to "syndication" -- a way to broadly deliver their headlines and frequently updated web content to news consumers via a standard distribution format (RSS), that can also be used in My Yahoo!.
Syndication describes the process of publishing simultaneously in more than one online location. It’s usually not for distributing full-text articles (though it can be), but often includes the headline and a few lines of text or a short summary of the article. On My Yahoo!, the headline links back to the complete article or blog post on the publisher’s web site.


What is RSS?

RSS stands for "Really Simple Syndication." It’s a format that web sites and blogs can use to send updated headlines to you via services like My Yahoo!. My Yahoo! gathers the content you select from a variety of sources and displays it for you in one convenient location. Syndication means you don't have to visit each site individually to see what's new -- you simply scan headlines or brief article summaries and click to read the full text. That’s the "really simple" part. And it’s "really simple" for publishers to make their content accessible this way too.
Because RSS is a relatively new format, not all sites currently syndicate their content in this way. However, many notable sites already do offer RSS, and every day the RSS offering grows. For example, news sites such as the Christian Science Monitor, the BBC, and CNet's use RSS to syndicate news headlines and summaries. Other sites use RSS to alert customers of new products or upcoming events.


What are the benefits of using receiving syndicated headlines via RSS?

There are many benefits to accessing headlines and information this way:

Efficiency -- timely news and information is automatically there when you need it;
Breadth -- headlines from the web sources you care about are consolidated;
Organization -- sources can be displayed in order of importance with the latest news on top;
Productivity -- email newsletter subscriptions and unruly bookmarks can lead to clutter and information overload.
Ultimately, you save time while consuming more information. Instead of browsing multiple sites to find information of interest, syndicated headlines are delivered directly to your My Yahoo! page. And they are consolidated in a way that's easy to scan periodically throughout the day. When a headline interests you, just click and go directly to the source.


How can I use RSS?

Typically, people use RSS to:
Gather, read, or quickly scan frequently updated headlines from a variety of sources using a "News Aggregator" or "Newsreader" program.
Incorporate syndicated headlines into their personal weblogs (often called "blogs") as a way to display information from different publishers.
Blogs are web pages which typically consist of timestamped, frequently updated links to news items and web sites. Blogging has developed into an online publishing tool used for many purposes: traditional journalism, personal diaries, collaborative journals, digital note-taking, topical group discussion forums, and hybrid combinations.


How can I use RSS on My Yahoo!?

Because My Yahoo! now supports the RSS format, you don't actually "use" RSS to benefit from it. My Yahoo! uses RSS to pull headlines and summaries from your favorite web sites and blogs. All you have to do is specify which sites you'd like to see added to your personal My Yahoo! page -- we'll take it from there.


How do I add the RSS Module to My Yahoo!?

Adding the RSS Headlines beta module is easy. Just click to add the module and follow the instructions on the page. If you don't currently have a My Yahoo! page, you can sign up here. Just choose where to display the module on your page and you've got an RSS newsreader in just a few simple clicks.


How do I know if a site supports RSS?

Any site that supports RSS can be added to My Yahoo!. Look for a small white-on-orange rectangular "XML" -- that indicates a link to an RSS file. If your favorite site doesn't yet support RSS, you can email them to request support of RSS.


Is My Yahoo! becoming a Newsreader?

Yes. A newsreader (sometimes called a news aggregator) is software that periodically polls a specified set of web sites or blogs, pulls the latest headlines, and displays them on a single page. It works a lot like My Yahoo! in gathering together content from all across Yahoo!.
With this beta release of the RSS Headlines module, My Yahoo! becomes a web-based newsreader that can display your choice of syndicated RSS feeds from tens of thousands of sources around the Web. But this is just the beginning. Your feedback on this beta release can help us improve and refine this exciting new tool. Our goal is to make it easy for all Yahoo! members to find and add RSS feeds to My Yahoo!.


What are the benefits of using My Yahoo! as my newsreader?

In addition to the benefits of headline syndication, you can customize My Yahoo! to create your own individual Internet start page. RSS headlines coupled with My Yahoo!'s 100+ customized modules and frequently used services -- such as email, maps, stock quotes, etc -- work in tandem to help you find, organize, and share information on the Web.
My Yahoo! is easy to set up quickly. You choose the page layout, pick a color or pre-built theme, and then select the content modules to add. If you've already set up your own My Yahoo! page, you can easily add another page dedicated to RSS Headlines.


How do I add syndicated headlines to my RSS module?

We've tried to make it easy, but remember this is just a beta release -- think of it as a test of how RSS might work in My Yahoo! in the future. Once you've added the RSS module, start by simply clicking the “Edit” button in the upper right-hand corner. You now have a couple of options for adding sources.
First, you can search for by keyword (ie. "England") or for the specific source or site you want to add. My Yahoo! will attempt to automatically discover the corresponding RSS URL. If the site is known, just click the "Add" checkbox.
For example, if you want to add top stories from BBC simply type "BBC" and My Yahoo! will find for the corresponding RSS URL.
This works for blogs too. For example, to add Mercury News columnist Dan Gillmor's blog, enter the URL, and My Yahoo! will find and add the RSS file.
Alternatively, if you know the specific RSS URL for the source you want, just type or paste it and click the "Add" button. Like most newsreaders available today, this is the primary way to add RSS headlines, but it means you need to know the specific URL of the source.


How do I find the URL for a site's RSS file/feed?

The little white-in-orange "XML" button () indicates that a web site supports RSS. It usually points to the site's RSS file. If you click the button, don't worry about the text in your browser -- all you need is the URL in the browser's web address bar.
To add the RSS feed to My Yahoo!, simply right click on the orange XML button to "Copy Shortcut." Go to My Yahoo!'s RSS edit page and paste ("Ctrl V") it into the "Add URL" box.


Can I import a list of sources?

If you've already set up another newsreader but want to try the My Yahoo! module, you can import the list of sites you already subscribe to. Many news readers have an export function that outputs in OPML, another format for file sharing.

If this feature is available, export and save your sources as an OPML file. Then from the RSS Edit Page click on "Advanced Import Option" in the "Add New Sources" box. Browse your local drive for the OPML file, click "OK," then click "Import." Once the OPML file is imported, your RSS Headlines module is instantly populated with your sources.
Tip: Have any friends who are into reading blogs? Chances are they use a newsreader to scan for updates. Ask them to email you the OPML file with favorite syndicated sites -- it's a great way to get started quickly.


I'm interested in adding content about a specific topic to my page, but only found a few search results. There must be more out there, why are there so few choices?

As part of making it easy to find and add RSS headlines to My Yahoo!, we are building an RSS directory. To date, this directory includes thousands of the most popular blogs and web sites that publish RSS feeds, but it is by no means exhaustive. This is where we need your help during the beta period.
Any valid RSS file can be added to My Yahoo!, whether it exists in the Yahoo! directory or not -- if you know the URL, you can add it. Once it is added to your page, the URL is also added to the directory for others to discover via search results. Ultimately, you help make the My Yahoo! directory better by finding and adding feeds we don't already know about.


How else can I discover RSS?

You are welcome to start with the Yahoo! Directory or search for RSS. You'll quickly discover there are several RSS directories on the Web today that are very helpful. Here are some of the better-known resources for finding RSS feeds:


What happens if I try to add an RSS URL that is behind a firewall?

Because the Yahoo! Feedseeker only has access to publicly available RSS files, My Yahoo! will not be able to pull syndicated feeds hosted behind firewalls. For example, if you subscribe to an internal company newsletter that is syndicated via RSS, you will not be able to read it via My Yahoo!


How do I learn more about RSS?

There's lots of information on the Web about RSS. Depending on what you're looking for, try starting here:
For non-technical people new to RSS, check out:

For experienced Internet users, check out the resources here:

For the web developer crowd, check out:

For a more technical introduction, check out:

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