Content syndication for the Web
RSS is one of the most successful XML services ever. Despite its chaotic roots, it has become the community standard for exchanging content information across Web sites. Python is an excellent tool for RSS processing, and Mike Olson and Uche Ogbuji introduce a couple of modules available for this purpose.
RSS is an abbreviation with several expansions: "RDF Site Summary," "Really Simple Syndication," "Rich Site Summary," and perhaps others. Behind this confusion of names is an astonishing amount of politics for such a mundane technological area. RSS is a simple XML format for distributing summaries of content on Web sites. It can be used to share all sorts of information including, but not limited to, news flashes, Web site updates, event calendars, software updates, featured content collections, and items on Web-based auctions.
RSS was created by Netscape in 1999 to allow content to be gathered from many sources into the Netcenter portal (which is now defunct). The UserLand community of Web enthusiasts became early supporters of RSS, and it soon became a very popular format. The popularity led to strains over how to improve RSS to make it even more broadly useful. This strain led to a fork in RSS development. One group chose an approach based on RDF, in order to take advantage of the great number of RDF tools and modules, and another chose a more stripped-down approach. The former is called RSS 1.0, and the latter RSS 0.91. Just last month the battle flared up again with a new version of the non-RDF variant of RSS, which its creators are calling "RSS 2.0."
RSS 0.91 and 1.0 are very popular, and used in numerous portals and Web logs. In fact, the blogging community is a great user of RSS, and RSS lies behind some of the most impressive networks of XML exchange in existence. These networks have grown organically, and are really the most successful networks of XML services in existence. RSS is a XML service by virtue of being an exchange of XML information over an Internet protocol (the vast majority of RSS exchange is simple HTTP GET of RSS documents). In this article, we introduce just a few of the many Python tools available for working with RSS. We don't provide a technical introduction to RSS, because you can find this in so many other articles (see Resources). We recommend first that you gain a basic familiarity with RSS, and that you understand XML. Understanding RDF is not required.
[We consider RSS an 'XML service' rather than a 'Web service' due to the use of XML descriptions but the lack of use of WSDL. -- Editors]