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    RSS: A New Way to Keep in Touch


    International Trade Forum - Issue 4/2005, © International Trade Centre

    Most major e-publishers now provide RSS (real simple syndication) feeds - essentially automatic summary updates of topics that you choose - in addition to the e-mail alerts they send out on the subjects that they want you to receive.

    RSS has become the emerging standard for alerting users to new web content, using a channel that, unlike e-mail, is dedicated to the dissemination of such information. With RSS there is no confusion with personal e-mail messages and no spam.

    It is growing fast. Early in 2005, a major distributor in the United States said its subscriber base was growing by 1-1.5% a day. Pew's International Research Report in February 2005 reported that 5% of Internet consumers use RSS readers while the world total of web users is put at over 880 million.

    How does it work?

    By collecting in one place the news from sites that users select, RSS readers make it possible to review a large number of sites in a short time. Using RSS, e-publishers provide updates, such as the latest news headlines or weblog postings.

    RSS reader applications are built into a number of web browsers such as Firefox and Avant Browser. If you don't have an RSS feed reader in your browser, it is worth taking the time to download an RSS reader software available on the Internet for free or for a small charge (FeedReader is free). If you set it to run automatically, each time you connect to the Internet, the RSS feeder detects updates to any of your chosen sites and displays the list of items, which typically include the headline and the summary of articles. You can scan these quickly and click on articles that are of interest. The click leads you to the sites, where you can view the entire article.

    Earlier this year, Trade Forum began an RSS feed service as a complement to the e-mail alert service we have offered for the last five years.

    RSS can be trickier to set up than signing up for e-mail alerts but most RSS suppliers make it easy. You just need to cut and paste the web address of the feed into your aggregator or browser feed directory.

    Some RSS feeds related to international trade and development:

    Here are some buttons that identify RSS feeds. "XML" and "RSS" are the most widely used today. The third RSS icon pictured, created for Mozilla's Firefox™ browser, will also be used by the next version of Microsoft's Internet Explorer™ browser.