What Is RSS (Really Simple Syndication)?

by Jon Henshaw

I felt inspired to do a post on RSS feeds, because FamilyResource.com uses extensive use of RSS feeds, but a new survey on RSS claims that the majority of the public has no clue what RSS feeds are. This post is my attempt to explain RSS feeds in plain English.

There are millions of websites on the Internet. As you surf the Internet, you will occasionally come across a website that has interesting content. How do you remember that website? How do you know when there are new articles on that website? Many people will bookmark the website, but bookmarks quickly become huge and unwieldy, and before you know it, you ignore your bookmark list altogether. Bookmarks also can’t tell you if there’s new content available, and if there is, what the new content is.

The idea behind RSS is to give the ability for any user on the Internet to easily subscribe to content, on any website (that’s supports RSS), and to be updated when new content is available. There are a couple ways to subscribe to and use RSS feeds.

First, you can use an RSS reader. An RSS reader is either an application or website that allows you to add RSS feeds. You add a RSS feed by copying the RSS feed link (similar to a regular web address for a bookmark), and then adding it to your reader. Once the RSS reader has the feed, it will automatically, and systematically check for updates. When you open your RSS reader application, or view your web-based RSS reader, you will be presented with all of the new content for the websites you’re subscribed to.

A second way to use RSS feeds is to use a browser that support RSS feeds as bookmarks. For example, Firefox and Safari web browsers support the ability to add RSS feeds as bookmarks. The only difference is that the browser will look for new content on your RSS feeds, and display a number next to the RSS feed bookmark (the number designates that there’s new content). This isn’t an ideal way to use RSS feeds, but some people prefer the simplicity of this feature.

The easiest way to subscribe to feeds is through a web-based RSS reader. There are several to choose from, and most of them are free. Below is a list of the most popular web-based RSS readers:

Web-based RSS readers keep you inside your web browser, so you don’t have to worry about switching between different applications. Another advantage to using web-based RSS readers is that many sites, like FamilyResource.com, will have easy link-buttons that will automatically take you to your web-based RSS reader, and subscribe to the RSS feed for you. I take full advantage of this feature, and have put these link-buttons on almost every page of FamilyResource.com to make it easier for users to subscribe to our RSS feeds.

Once you start using RSS feeds on a regular basis, you’ll start to wonder how you ever got along without them. They do exactly what the name says — really simple syndication. I check my RSS reader (Bloglines) throughout the day, and am able to sanely keep up with the websites and content that I’m most interested in.

Check out Wikipedia for more information on RSS

Share and Enjoy:These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover new web pages.
  • blinkbits
  • BlinkList
  • blogmarks
  • co.mments
  • connotea
  • del.icio.us
  • De.lirio.us
  • digg
  • Fark
  • feedmelinks
  • Furl
  • LinkaGoGo
  • Ma.gnolia
  • NewsVine
  • Netvouz
  • RawSugar
  • Reddit
  • scuttle
  • Shadows
  • Simpy
  • Smarking
  • Spurl
  • TailRank
  • Wists
  • YahooMyWeb

This entry was posted on Thursday, August 25th, 2005 at 3:43 pm and is filed under Technology, Websites. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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