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September 27, 2004


F. Andy Seidl

Using the terms "RSS" and "notification" in the same sentence can be a little confusing. You are correct that a typical RSS client (i.e., aggregator or newsreader) periodically polls an RSS server for the latest RSS feed. The client then determines which items are new (to you) and synthesizes a "notification", which may be a blinking tray icon, a pop-up "toaster", a bolded item in a news window, etc.

Strictly speaking, RSS is simply an XML dialect--a way to serialize metadata about information resources. Thus, RSS specifies an information interchange format. It does not specify a "transport" mechanism. Most often, the RSS is transported over HTTP using GET operations; that is, a client performs a GET operation to poll for the latest RSS content (giving rise to a pun--RSS: I Get It, see ). But, RSS can be transported using different mechanisms. For example, an RSS document could be "pushed" over HTTP using an HTTP POST operation. It could also be sent to a web service using a SOAP interface.

So, when I speak of using as a notification mechanism, I'm thinking more of RSS as a standardized interchange format with the understanding that RSS is most often (today) transported via HTTP GET but that other transport mechanisms are possible (and likely to emerge).

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