Really Simple Syndication (RSS) represents yet another popular form of dynamic Web content. RSS represents “a family of web formats used to publish frequently updated digital content.” Although RSS feeds are typically text-based, they “may also include audio files (podcasts) or even video files (vodcasts)” .
A feed reader, also known as a news reader or news aggregator , is an application needed to collect and view RSS content. There are many types of feed readers including “desktop, Web, mail-client, browser plug-in,” and more.
The readers share a common function namely, to simultaneously “monitor any number of sites and sources while providing near realtime updates from one location” .
Once a Web user selects and installs a feed reader, the user can subscribe to whatever RSS feeds are of personal interest. A standard icon is used to indicate where RSS feeds are available on a particular Web site; however, the subscription process for feeds varies according to the type of feed reader application used.
A diverse assortment of government agencies, businesses, organizations, and even individuals now offer RSS feeds. For example, Figure 3.1 illustrates the various RSS feed subscriptions available from the whitehouse.gov Web site.
The ability of feed readers to seamlessly monitor updates from a multiplicity of Web sites affords Web users a substantial savings of time and energy. Feed readers are also of value to Web authors since they can be used to automatically aggregate and integrate content from other Web sources into authors’ own pages and sites .
Beyond the need for a Web user to use a feed reader to view RSS feeds, two additional software-related factors may further limit the user’s ability to access all of the information offered on a Web page: (1) the types of browser used, and (2) other supplementary software that may be required to utilize the content.
Different browsers display information in varying ways. As a result, material created to be viewed by one graphical browser may not appear in the same manner when it is viewed by a different one. Moreover, older versions of a browser may display Web content or otherwise function differently from newer versions.
Beyond variations in browsers, other software or hardware may also be necessary to access the full contents of a page or site. A Web site may require a sound card and the appropriate software plug-ins to access multimedia content on the site.
Moreover, many forms and other publications on Web sites are exclusively available in Portable Document Format (PDF). Access to these materials requires downloading Adobe Acrobat reader or other software capable of viewing PDF files.
Therefore, it is important to realize that these along with other factors may limit access to Webbased resources.