RSS has been a revolutionary force in finding and distributing content on the Web. The ability of a site or program to query other sites about what content is available has led to the advent of aggregator sites such as Weblogs (http://weblogs.com/), Feedster (http://feedster.com/), Bloglines (http://www.bloglines.com/), and Technorati (http://www.technorati.com/). These sites regularly access RSS feeds from around the Web and catalog the results. RSS also allows visitors to your site to subscribe to your content using popular feed readers like FeedDemon (http://www.bradsoft.com/feeddemon/), SharpReader (http://www.sharpreader.net/), NetNewsWire (http://www.apple.com/downloads/macosx/internet_utilities/netnewswire.html), and iPodder (http://www.ipodder.org/).
The widespread use of syndication and subscription has led to a vast improvement in the delivery of targeted information on the Web. Not only do individuals have more tools to filter and collect information of interest, but the entire cycle of publishing and discovery has been shortened dramatically. Your feed reader will tell you whenever it detects new content on sites to which you have subscribed. Drupal 4.7 includes support for aggregating content for the various syndication specifications, including all versions of RSS and Atom.
Drupal's Aggregator module reads syndicated feeds from other sites, in essence allowing your Drupal site to act as a feed reader. It will publish the titles, headlines, and teasers from articles and posts in the feeds, as well as provide links to the original content. Thus, your site becomes a hub for the latest news from around the Internet, focused on whichever topics you choose.
The feeds are updated regularly using Drupal's scheduled task functionality (cron.php) on a schedule you set. (Refer to Chapter 6 for instructions on configuring scheduled tasks using cron.php, which is necessary for having Aggregator feed items updated automatically.) You also have the ability to update the feeds manually from the administration interface.
■ Note A feed is a collection of the latest articles from a site. This collection will change in time as the feed's site is updated. Drupal will purge all of the feed items that are no longer current from your database, so that those displayed reflect the items that are current on the source site. Keep this idea of impermanence in mind when considering some of the more advanced features of the Aggregator module, such as categorizing feed items. Is it worth the work when they will all eventually be replaced by newer items?
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