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RSS - What It Is And Why It's Great

Written by: Milly Welsh
Published: April 2010

It's an obvious understatement to say that the Internet is huge.  The Internet has very quickly become an intricate part of how we communicate and gather information.  One downside to the Internet is the fact that it's just too big!  You can literally spend days on end going from website to website reading about just one topic that interests you.  Another common problem is finding an intriguing website only to never find it again because you don't remember how you got there.  Fortunately, there’s a great technology that can help with both of these issues and it’s called RSS.

What Is RSS?

RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication.  It is a document (feed), usually made in xml format, which is updated periodically with the website’s new content.  It is especially popular with blogs and news sites but is gaining popularity with other types of websites as well.  I recently added an RSS feed to Priority Learning's website to make our articles more accessible.  A user is able to subscribe to the feed using an "aggregator" or feed reader.  This is a program or web application that manages your RSS feeds.  After subscribing to a feed,   all you will need to do is open your feed reader.  Any new content from your subscriptions will be listed without having to go to each individual website!

How Do I Get Started Using RSS?

First you need to choose a feed reader.  As I mentioned before there are two types of feed readers: a software reader that you will need to download and install into your computer or a web based reader that you will need to go online and login to.  Both types have their pros and cons.  A software reader will typically have more features and will often integrate with other programs such as Internet Explorer and Outlook, making them very convenient.  The down side to a software readers is that you have to be on your own computer to use them and you will usually have to pay.  If you use a Mac, you will probably be unable to use this sort of reader as most of them will only run on windows.  The upside to a web based reader is the fact that they are almost always free to use and you can use them anywhere on any sort of computer with Internet access.  The down side to web based readers is that you will have to open up a web browser and login to your account to use them.  I have provided a list of both types of RSS readers below:

Software Readers:

Web Based Readers:

imageOnce you choose your feed reader and set it up, the only thing left to do is search the web and find feeds to subscribe to!  Whether your interests are sumo wrestling, stamp collecting, ping-pong or even something more obscure, most likely there is a feed out there for you.  There are a few websites such as Technorati and Google Blogs that exist specifically to search for feeds.  This is where I would start if you are not sure where to look.  Once you find a website you wish to subscribe to, look for the RSS symbol (right) and click on it.  I use Google Reader.  When I click on the RSS symbol, it automatically prompts me, allowing me to subscribe easily.  Depending on what you use as a feed reader, you may need to copy the URL and add the feed manually.  Sometimes the RSS symbol can be tricky to find.  One place to look is actually on the right hand side of the URL bar.

Hopefully this article will open up a whole new world of Internet browsing for those of you who are not already familiar with RSS.  Like always I welcome your questions and comments.

Milly Welsh

Milly Welsh

Milly Welsh is the Priority Learning webmaster and Owner/Operator of Zebralove Web Solutions, a web development company located in southern Maine.
Zebralove Web Solutions