It's not a spot of bother – just news feeds packed with information You may have noticed the web seems to have broken out in spots.
Nearly every website seems to have been infected with strange orange, square shaped pimples, all with the letters RSS next to them.
If you click on them they burst, squirting gooey XML code all over your browser!
But don’t worry, your computer won’t get infected, the spots are not the outward sign of an electronic virus, but news feeds, packed with information waiting to be deciphered.
By most people’s definition, RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication, although like HTTP, the original meaning of the acronym has been lost in time.
There are other types of news feeds, but the RSS strain seems to have gone pandemic on us, consigning the other types to the beta-max graveyard in the sky.
You need to install a news reader on your computer to collect and decipher these feeds, or signup for an account on a news reading website, of which there are now many (I can recommend netvibes.com ).
But why would you want to bother?
Well, it saves you visiting all those websites you need to keep an eye on, to stay on top of your game; it will make you the best-informed person in the office!
While everyone else will need to trawl through their favourites’ list to find the breaking stories, you’ll have yours delivered to your computer as soon as they are posted.
RSS makes the web work like e-mail does. With e-mail, you check your in-box every couple of hours and see if anything new has arrived, in most cases your computer will alert you to new mail by beeping or flashing.
News readers do the same every time an article is posted to one of your subscribed feeds.
This is absolutely perfect for lazy columnists like me, who can quite literally get spoon fed all the latest technology news, nicely aggregated into one easy-to-scan format, all sat in one place and in chronological order.
The downside, for web designers and marketeers alike, is that the RSS format has no room for branding or advertisement in its conventional graphic form. Feed consumers are reading textual information with all the images taken out.
RSS has already transformed the way many people use the web. These geeky early adopters are potentially pioneering the way in which we all will use new websites in the future.
So fear not the orange spots, they are just internet acne, and a sign that the web is transitioning from an early juvenile form into an adult.
Apology: Last week I incorrectly listed Oddbins as part of the Thresher Group. Odd Bins will not accept the Threshers 40 per cent off e-voucher that was allegedly released to the general public by mistake. The Threshers’ PR man gave me a telling ‘no-comment’ on whether the voucher release was a genuine accident, or a cunning viral marketing campaign.
* Chris is managing director of Internet consultancy WAA WebXpress. This and other unedited articles can be found at webxpress.com . Emailchris@webxpress.com