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HomeQ&AWhat's An RSS Feed And Why Do We Need...

What’s An RSS Feed And Why Do We Need It?

This is a question I am asked regularly so this short article is intended to help explain the concept and relevance of RSS.

If you own or manage a blog for any purpose, an RSS feed is critical if you intend to keep your readers up to date with your latest posts. There are a number of ways your readers can subscribe to your blog but the most common system used is via RSS feed.

So what is RSS?

Simply put it stands for ‘Rich Site Summary’ or it’s often dubbed ‘Really Simple Syndication’. It’s a technology being used by millions of web users around the globe to keep track of their favourite websites. Most consider it a form of news feed that you subscribe to.

In the days prior to RSS if you wanted to keep track of updated information on a website you had to ‘bookmark’ the site in your browser and return regularly to the site to check for changes. The problem was you had to do all the work yourself. If you were tracking numerous sites it could quickly become complicated. It was easy to miss something critical or get stuck in a never-ending loop of revisiting the same information over and over.

RSS Saves the Day!

What we needed was a technology that simply informed us every time a site updated. In practical terms, this is what RSS does. It provides a method of receiving relevant, up-to-date information in quick time after it is published.

In a way it’s like subscribing to a magazine that’s delivered periodically but instead of arriving in your mail it comes directly to your RSS Reader each time your favourite sites are updated. Even the most technically deficient web user can easily get the hang of RSS and make the most of the technology.

How Do I Use RSS?

First up – get an RSS Feed Reader!

There a plenty of free options available with a mix of useful (and useless) features. A simple starting point is Google Reader or Bloglines. Personally I still find Google Reader more than adequate but a simple search will provide a host of alternative options.

I find the readers work a little like email. Unread feeds will appear in bold in a kind of inbox style list. Click on a particular feed and it will provide you with the updated information and usually an option to visit the actual site. When you’re done simply move on to the next feed.

The best way to learn how to use your new feeder is to subscribe to a few feeds and give it a go. The help sections provided will guide you through the process if you get stuck.

There are two ways to locate an RSS feed. First will be on the site you are visiting and secondly from your browser. On site subscriptions typically involve a button or widget and come in many shapes and sizes so just keep an eye out and click to subscribe.

Most web browsers have RSS feeds built in these days. When you visit a site you will likely notice an RSS feed in the right hand side of the address bar where the sites URL is located.

To quickly subscribe all you have to do is click the orange button. Once you do this a few times you will start to see unread items appear in your Feed Reader and you can get underway. You can also unsubscribe at anytime so don’t be afraid to select a few starting options as you can always remove them at a later date.

There’s no security concerns, your email will be kept private and not used for any other purpose than to send your daily updates.

I hope this has helped and that you are now a little more familiar with the RSS technology. Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

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