RSS and Atom syndication are increasingly defining the way that news and information is and will be distributed in the future on the internet.
Hence, we need to know something about them.
The main difference between the RSS and Atom syndication standards is that, as written by John Palfrey, the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School is now the owner and trustee of the RSS specification, whereas the Atom standard is open source.
A short, somewhat dated but understandable history of the development of both standards was written by Glyn Moody at Netcraft.
Dave Winer entertained the idea of merging both formats some time ago, but nothing has come of that.