RSS: Really Simple Syndication

The History of RSS

by Carmella Lee

RSS Golden Guy

Image by lumaxart

The history of RSS could be traced back to 1997, and the creation of Resource Description Framework. RDF was created by a man named, Ramanathan V. Guha. RDF is similar to RSS. The mark up language RDF, was used to store metadata. Metadata is basically information about information.

In 1999, the original RSS, version 0.90, was designed by Netscape as an XML format to distribute news, stories and information. Netscape refined this version to a simpler version, 0.91 and dropped it. Then 0.91 was picked up by Dan Winer, an employee of UserLand Software and continued to develop it, therefore releasing a newer version of RSS. The two versions were named the same but were slightly different.

In the meantime, Rael Dornfest at O’Reily, a third, non-commercial group picked up RSS and based on their interpretation of Netscape’s original concept of RSS, designed a new format basing it on the original guiding principles of RSS 0.90 (before it got simplified into 0.91). This format, which is based on RDF, is called RSS 1.0. RSS 1.0 was not compatible with previous RSS versions. UserLand was not happy with this new format and instead of accepting RSS 1.0, UserLand continued to evolve the 0.9x branch, through versions 0.92, 0.93, 0.94, and finally 2.0. RSS 2.0 is very similar to the 0.9 series and is generally considered compatible.

RSS 2.0 specification was donated to a non-commercial third party, Harvard Law School. Harvard Law accepted responsibility for the RSS 2.0 and for the future development of the RSS 2.0 specification. RSS 2.0 was released through Harvard under a Creative Commons license on 7/15/03.

This table below lists the RSS versions and recommendations as to which version to choose.

RSS versions and recommendations








Obsoleted by 1.0

Don't use



Drop dead simple

Officially obsoleted by 2.0, but still quite popular

Use for basic syndication. Easy migration path to 2.0 if you need more flexibility

0.92, 0.93, 0.94


Allows richer metadata than 0.91

Obsoleted by 2.0

Use 2.0 instead


RSS-DEV Working Group

RDF-based, extensibility via modules, not controlled by a single vendor

Stable core, active module development

Use for RDF-based applications or if you need advanced RDF-specific modules



Extensibility via modules, easy migration path from 0.9x branch

Stable core, active module development

Use for general-purpose, metadata-rich syndication

This table above was in this site

There are a lot of folk legends about the evolution of RSS. Here's the scoop, the sequence of events in the life of RSS, as told by the designer of most of the formats.

  1. scriptingNews format, designed by DW at UserLand. 12/27/97.
  2. RSS 0.90, designed by Netscape, for use with, which also supported scriptingNews format. The only thing about it that was RDF was the header, otherwise it was plain garden-variety XML. 3/15/99.
  3. scriptingNews 2.0b1, designed by DW at UserLand, enhanced to include all the features in RSS 0.90. Privately DW urged Netscape to adopt the features in this format that weren't present in RSS 0.90. 6/15/99.
  4. RSS 0.91, designed by Netscape, spec written by Dan Libby, includes most features from scriptingNews 2.0b1. "We're trying to move towards a more standard format, and to this end we have included several tags from the popular <scriptingNews> format." The RDF header is gone. 7/10/99.
  5. UserLand adopts RSS 0.91, deprecates scriptingNews formats. 7/28/99.
  6. The RSS team at Netscape evaporates.
  7. UserLand's RSS 0.91 specification. 6/4/00.
  8. RSS 1.0 published as a proposal, worked on in private by a group led by Rael Dornfest at O'Reilly. Based on RDF and uses namespaces. Most elements of previous formats moved into modules. Like 0.90 it has an RDF header, but otherwise is a brand-new format, not related to any previous format. 8/14/00.
  9. RSS 0.92, which is 0.91 with optional elements, designed by DW at UserLand. 12/25/00.
  10. RSS 0.93 discussed but never deployed. 4/20/01.
  11. MetaWeblog API merges RSS 0.92 with XML-RPC to provide a powerful blogging API. 3/14/02.
  12. RSS 2.0, which is 0.92 with optional elements, designed by DW, after leaving UserLand. MetaWeblog API updated for RSS 2.0. While in development, this format was called 0.94. 9/18/02.
  13. RSS 2.0 spec released through Harvard under a Creative Commons license. 7/15/03.

RSS 2.0 at Harvard Law
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RRS SPECIFICATIONS everything you need to know about RSS
April 6, 2004
What Is RSS
By Mark Pilgrim

Project Members: Erin Baker, Corey Christians, Alexandra Lee Delgado, Sho Ikeda, Carmella Lee
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Created in July 2009 for IRLS 571 Introduction to Information Technology, School of Information Resources and Library Science, University of Arizona

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