“An RSS file is simply a text file located on a Web server and is openly readable by any app that knows its location. It contains a sophisticated database that summarizes a Web site's content.
Usually, the file is created and maintained by the same software that a Web master uses to create the site; every time a news item is posted, a new entry is added to the RSS file containing the item's headline, a summary and a link to the item itself, though RSS is a flexible standard and can track far more information.
“Cool, Andy,” you're saying “but what does this mean to me, the end-user?”
It means that if your favorite Web site supports RSS–look for a little orange “RSS” or “XML” box on the page, which contains a link to the RSS file–you don't have to read through it manually to look for new items of interest. Software can do that for you, by parsing its RSS file. New apps known as “news aggregators” can act sort of like a TiVo for the Web….
RSS is a tremendous big win for everyone. Users will spend less time browsing sites and more time reading them. And it steers traffic to Web sites. A middle-school teacher can't afford the time to keep the school's site updated with all the latest news about space, but the site can always point to Space.com's most recent headlines and stories thanks to RSS.” [Chicago Sun-Times, via Scripting News]
This is a good introductory article for the techie at your library, not the director, librarians, or support staff. It's too bad someone at the Sun-Times didn't read the article ahead of time and use the occasion to announce the implementation of an RSS feed for the paper. Still, we edge ever closer…. [The Shifted Librarian]