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What is RSS?
What is RSS? This is a question that I am regularly asked and I thought it might be worth putting together a page that defines RSS and will hopefully shed some light on the subject.
Do you want to keep up to date with the latest photos and articles on Banakas Photography?
One option to subscribe are the periodic email updates, or you can subscribe to my RSS feed.
What is RSS?
RSS (Rich Site Summary) is a format for delivering regularly changing web content and is used by millions of web users around the world to keep track of their favorite websites. Many news-related sites, blogs, and other online publishers syndicate their content as an RSS feed to whoever wants it.
RSS solves a problem for people who regularly use the web. Years ago, in the ‘olden days’ of the web, you would need to bookmark your favorite pages and everyday visit all those sites to stay up to date with new information. RSS allows you to easily stay informed by retrieving the latest content from the sites your are interested in. You save time by not needing to visit each site individually. You ensure your privacy, by not needing to join each site’s email newsletter.
The problems with bookmarking
- You, as the web surfer, had to do all the work
- Things quickly get complicated when you are trying to track many websites at once
- You will more than likely miss important information when you forget to check all your bookmarks
- You will end up seeing the same information over and over again on sites that don’t regularly update
RSS is the future
Years and years ago, if you wanted news you could either go out and find it yourself, or wait until the morning news paper (if you were lucky and lived in a large metro area, you may have gotten a morning and evening edition), or wait until the evening news, or even wait a month for our favorite trade magazine to show up in our mailbox to receive the information that drove your daily living. As time has progressed, so has the way in which we receive our news. Now there are multiple 24-hour news channels, thousands of websites that provide us with that same information that we used to have to wait for. But in a sense, we still had to go and find that information.
What if I told you that your news can be custom tailored and delivered straight to you and available when you want to see it? This is what RSS does for you.
RSS is a technology that flips things around a bit and provides you with a method of getting relevant and up to date information sent to you for you to read in your own time. It saves you time and helps you get the information you want, quickly after it was published. Hot off the presses!
RSS stands for “Really Simple Syndication”. It can sometimes be described as a “news feed” that you subscribe to.
The ‘subscription’ description can be helpful, since it’s like subscribing to a magazine that is delivered to you periodically, but instead of it coming in your physical mailbox each month, it is delivered to your “RSS Reader” every time your favorite website updates.
At first, using RSS seemed a little odd, since I didn’t have to go out and visit all the sites I normally visit on a day to day basis, but now I have the information I want, comes directly to me.
Sounds interesting, How do I use RSS?
Get an RSS reader – The first thing you will want to do, if you’re getting into reading RSS is to find a good RSS feed reader.
There are many feed readers going around, each with their own pros and cons – however a good place to start is with a couple of free and easy to use web based ones like Feedly and The Old Reader. Either one will do if you are just starting out, and like I have said, there are many others to choose from but either of these are easy to use and will help you to work out the basics of RSS.
Both of these feed readers work similar to email. As you subscribe to feed, you will see indicators showing the number of unread entries from the sites you are tracking. As you click on them you will see the latest updates and can read them right there in the feed reader. You will be given the option to click through the article and go directly to that site or just make the item as ‘read’ and move on to the next one.
The best way to learn how to use either Feedly or The Old Reader is to simply subscribe to some feeds and give it a go.
Note: Feedly is availble on for both the Apple and Android platforms. I currently use Feedly since feeds that I add from my desktop will also show on my Apple devices when ever I have time to read them. Another good looking reader is Flipboard, although there is no web based interface. It is another reader that I use on my tablet.
Find some feeds to subscribe to – there are two places to look for a site’s feed:
- On the site
- In your browser
On the Site Subscription
Over the past several years you may have noticed a bunch of little buttons appearing on your favorite websites. They come in all shapes and sizes. To the right you will see a sample of some of those little buttons you may have seen before.
This is only a handful of what an RSS button may look like, and if you see one of these on a site you are visiting, chances are they will have a feed that you can subscribe to. In most cases it’s as simple as copy and pasting the link associated with the button into your RSS reader or clicking the button and following the instructions to subscribe using the feed reader of your choice.
In your Browser
Many internet browsers have the ability to find and subscribe to RSS feeds built right in. As you surf to a site, you can usually tell if it has an RSS feed by looking in the right hand side of the address bar, where you type in the site’s URL. You should see and RSS icon similar to the one at the top of the article, the letters RSS, or something similar.
To quickly and easily subscribe by clicking these icons you will want to setup your browser to do it with the feed reader of your choice. You can do this by going to the ‘preferences’ of your browser and choosing the reader of your choice.
Once you’ve subscribed to a few feeds you’ll start to see unread items in your feed reader and you can start reading.