File enclosures have been a part of RSS since version 2.0, but have only recently come to everyone’s attention with the emergence of podcasting. Most people now associate RSS attachments with MP3 files, but there’s no reason to restrict the attachments to audio files. For example, Fraser Speirs recently coined the term “appcasting” to refer to the practice of using RSS enclosures to deliver software updates or release notes for applications.
My favorite RSS aggregator, NetNewsWire, already supports enclosures of any type and automatically downloads them. I’ve been planning to include the free “Lite” version of NetNewsWire on the student laptops in our 1-to-1 project next year, and now I’m thinking that RSS enclosures would make it really easy for teachers to distribute files to their students. A teacher could post lecture notes, multimedia content, or any other kind of electronic document and let each student’s RSS reader take care of the rest. Similarly, school principals could use RSS to distribute newsletters or other materials to parents who are subscribed to a school’s news feed. RSS: it’s not just for text anymore.