What is RSS and How To Use Them

Have you ever come across this word RSS, or people asking you to subscribe to their RSS feed? Do you actually know what's it for and how can you use it to save you time? Then read on.

Before I start, watch this short video – RSS In Plain English.

The Basics

In a nutshell, RSS stands for "Really Simple Syndication" and you don't have to know what it means in order to use it. You can use RSS to syndicate or subscribe to the feed of a website, blog or almost any media content online (not just articles, it can be music, video, podcast or almost any digital media).

You can also read from Wikipedia entries on XML, RSS, Web Syndication and Web Feed.

By syndicating, you subscribe to the feed of the website, which means you don't have to constantly visit the many different website to read or access the latest content. Instead you use a feed reading software or a website to read the latest articles or content. Instead of going to each of your favourite sites individually, you can collect all the feeds of the sites (provided they make them available) in one place. The purpose of syndication is to therefore make it more efficient for you to read your favorite content and save you a lot of time.

Feed Readers

Currently I'm using Google Reader. It is a web based reader. To use it, you just need to have a Google account, which I believe most of you have.

Here are some other web based feed reader that you can try out.

- Google Reader
- Bloglines
- NewsGator
- My Yahoo!

Browser Feed Reader

Most browsers such as Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox will automatically check a website to see if it has feeds and if it does the RSS icon will display so you know that this option is available.

In Mozilla Firefox the button appears in the URL bar.

RSS logo in Firefox
In Internet Explorer the button appears on the menu bar.

Subscribing to a Website or a Blog

In order to subscribe to an RSS feed, you will need to search for the orange RSS link button which looks like this.

RSS logo

For example, the RSS feed link for my blog looks like this – http://feedproxy.google.com/BenTheDrummersPersonalBlog. After clicking on it, you'll be taken to another page. On that page, can see a list of my feed content listed out. In order to subscribe, you'll need to choose the feed reader of your choice.

If you noticed, my feeds are summarized. In order to read the whole article or content, you'll need to click through to my blog to read the rest of it. I use a third party service called Feedburner which was acquired buy Google not long ago. Feedburner adds extra features to my feed output and most importantly it provides me with statistics on how many people subscribe to my blog.

Subscribe by Email

For some websites, you can also subscribe to their RSS by Email. In order to subscribe, you're required to enter your email address in the form. Whenever there are updates from the website, you'll be sent an email. This feature is also provided by Feedburner.

You can see at the top right sidebar of my blog for an example. There's an RSS feed button together with the Email form.

In Conclusion

All blogs will have a link which you can subscribe to. It might be referred to as an RSS feed, feed, RSS channel, Syndicate, RDF feed, XML feed, or Atom feed, but they all essentially the same thing.

RSS is designed to make our Internet life easier. At the moment, it’s worthwhile to become familiar with this technology simply because you are going to be seeing a lot more of it. If you can keep abreast of the technology wave you will have less frustration when using the Internet.

P.S. Don't forget to subscribe my RSS feed to your favorite RSS reader in order to be notified of new updates and help save your valuable time from jumping from blogs to blogs, checking for updates.

Update: Try out the RSS Subscription Options I've provided.

What Next?

If you enjoyed this post, don't forget to subscribe to my RSS Feed to stay updated of the latest post.
Subscribe new posts by RSS feed or by Email.

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