Use RSS Technology as Your Border Collie on the Web
This is Part 1 of a Three Part Series on RSS and the things that it can do. This article will cover what RSS is and how you can use it to read news and updates from your favorite web sites.
Part 2 will cover getting RSS data feeds from static sites that do not provide RSS feeds.
Part 3 will cover Putting RSS data into your web pages.
What is RSS?
RSS is an acronym that means either Really Simple Syndication or Rich Site Syndication. It is a way to describe, organize, and deliver content and information using XML technology from a web site or “service” to an end user (typically a feed reader).
Here is a great video from CommonCraft.com explaining what RSS is and how it works.
Sites that regularly update their information are the biggest users of RSS feeds. Typically, Blogs like this one use RSS feeds to distribute their new articles to subscribers and other services. News sites are another type of site that use RSS to distribute their content. Podcasts, (like the VitaminCM Podcast) also use RSS to distribute their content through iTunes and other services.
There are two parts to using RSS Feeds:
A site or service that provides an RSS feed and…
A Feed Reader to download and display the information.
How do you know if a Site has an RSS feed?
There is a standard icon that indicates a site that has a feed. There is also a collection of "nonstandard" icons that allow you to subscribe using some of the more popular feed readers.
Reading RSS Feeds
The other part of RSS the equation is a Feed Reader to download and display the content of an RSS feed. RSS Clients fall into two groups, Web Based applications and Desktop applications. There is a strong group of supporters for each type, think of the pros and cons in the “Gmail vs. Outlook” argument.
Some Popular Web Based RSS Clients
Google Reader: Google’s feed reader has a ton of great features to help you keep your feeds organized. (my current tool)
Bloglines: Yahoo’s feed reader is another very good option for reading and managing your feeds. (I used this for a long time before I switched to Google Reader.)
NetVibes, PageFlakes, MyYahoo, are some other popular web based feed readers.
Here is a list of about a Bazillion other Desktop RSS Reader for Windows, Mac, and Linux.
Outlook, Outlook Express, Mozilla Thunderbird all allow you to read RSS feeds using your email tool.
Here’s your chance to speak up:
Subscribing to Feeds
Once you choose an RSS reader, you’re ready to start subscribing to feeds from your favorite sites. When you find a site that has an RSS feed, you can use the following steps to add the feed to your feed reader:
Click the orange RSS icon or Subscribe link, or …
Select your feed reader using one of these buttons.
Confirm that you want to add the feed to your reader.