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Firefox Hacks by Nigel McFarlane

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Hack #71. Work with RSS Feeds

Suck syndicated news and blog updates into Firefox using scripts.

Really Simple Syndication (RSS) is a collection of XML-based file formats. RSS support in Firefox is in flux at the time of writing, and that heavily affects the ease with which you can get anything done. This hack provides some jumping-off points for integrating this technology with Firefox.

Tip

Firefox and Thunderbird RSS support is ongoing, and remarks made here should be reviewed for versions that are greater than 1.0. That said, most of the comments here are general and should be accurate for some time.

Understand the RSS Mess

Here is a list of reality checks for RSS:

  • There is no feeding of any kind. RSS does not use an event or message-forwarding architecture, unless an RSS client and RSS server pair are particularly sophisticated. In order to receive RSS information, the client must poll the server at regular intervals. This is what Mozilla technology does.

  • RSS describes documents. Feed content is in the form of XML documents, usually delivered over HTTP, and has no special status beyond that.

  • RSS is not based on RDF. Early versions were a mixture of alleged RDF and non-RDF XML. Modern versions have nothing to do with RDF. No version can be considered RDF.

  • There are many versions of RSS. According to this URL, the number of subtle variants is quite high, although some are no longer popular:

http://diveintomark.org/projects/feed_parser/
  • Atom and CDF are not specifically RSS, unless you use ...

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