Thursday, January 18, 2007

What's an RSS Feed?

You may have seen this symbol somewhere on the web. Then again, maybe not. So what is it, and why does it matter?

I never had much use for RSS feeds until I started using the Netvibes homepage (see post below). RSS stands for "Really Simple Syndication" and is a way of syndicating material like news stories or blog posts.

Here's the kicker: I don't understand the nitty-gritty details of RSS or the difference between RSS and XML. I've done some reading on how it works and how it came to be, but I still don't get it. The good news is that it doesn't matte! I use RSS feeds like crazy and have found them immensely helpful. That's why I'm writing this post. I think if you're online much at all or if you visit news sites and blogs, then you will find RSS feeds very useful.

So what do you need to do to start benefitting from RSS feeds? On a news site like or or on a blogs site like this one you can look for either the orange symbol you see in this post or the words "RSS Feed" or "Atom Feed" or something like that. For example, if you scroll to the bottom of this blog page, you'll see "Subscribe to: Posts (Atom)." That's what you would click on to subscribe to the Anwoth feed. Now, if you're using the Firefox browser you'll see the little orange symbol in the address bar like this:

If you're using Microsoft's Internet Explorer 7, you'll see the orange symbol on the little toolbar at the top right like this:

In either case, click the symbol and see what happens. For me it's been helpful for seeing what's going on at numerous blogs all at once. At a glance I can see whether there are any posts I want to read.

Okay, so I hope that helps some of you. If you have more questions on how it works, let me know and I'll see if I can help. If you don't want to use it after all, so be it. Either way, keep reading the blog posts here and at other good blogs (see my list).

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