What is RSS all about?

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A Dan Thompson contribution
What is RSS all about?

Submitted by philip ,
September 26 2015

Source link to page of article’s orgin:

http://www.techsupportalert.com/content/what-rss-all-about.htm-0

RSS is an Internet protocol – a standardized way to publish frequently
updated content to the Web. RSS makes it easy for originators to make their
content quickly and broadly available. Many devices, including tablets,
smartphones and PCs can easily access this content. RSS is short for “Really
Simple Syndication”, but don’t worry about that phrase. It’s just a dumb
name for a beautiful idea.

News articles, blog posts, update notices, sports stories, product and
software reviews, etc. are all delivered via RSS. That’s just a few examples
of the vast buffet of RSS content available today. RSS can deliver webpages,
audio and video. Most RSS content can be accessed anonymously by any
interested person (a few sites require passwords).

RSS “feeds” are what make RSS content available (there are also Atom feeds,
which are much the same). Feeds are generated automatically by the blogs,
news sources, online publications, etc., that offer feeds. The feed itself
can contain just a title with a link to the full content, an excerpt of the
content along with the link, or the full entry.

RSS lets publishers distribute their content quickly and automatically. Feed
content is available in a standardized format that makes it easy for users
to access. RSS feeds give them a quick, easy way to keep up with news and
emerging information that’s important to them.

To see a live example visit this link to the feed for Gizmo’s Freeware: Top
selections .

http://feeds.feedburner.com/gizmosbest

This particular feed is a hand compiled selection of the most interesting
new content on the Gizmo site, but most RSS feeds including our own Hot
Finds

http://feeds.feedburner.com/GizmosHotFinds

and Tech Tips feeds

http://feeds.feedburner.com/GizmosTechTips

are generated automatically.

Why use RSS?

You probably have several – or many – favorite blogs and websites that you
like to keep up on. Some of them may offer email newsletters while others
don’t. You probably don’t like having your inbox cluttered with lots of
newsletters though, and it is a chore to visit each blog and website
regularly and scan the site just to see if there is something new there.

RSS feeds offer a better way to access the new and changing content you want
to see. You subscribe to RSS feeds somewhat like you would subscribe to
email newsletters, but there are big differences:

. Subscribing to RSS feeds and un-subscribing is instantaneous,
anonymous, and completely under your own control.

. You never submit your email address. In fact, you don’t actually
subscribe to feeds. You give your RSS client the web address of the feeds
you want to “follow.” It simply polls the feeds at regular intervals and
retrieves any new content.

. RSS readers aggregate the content from all the RSS feeds you
follow, and organize it in one place for quick and easy digestion.

. There is little or no spam, and there are no spam filters to
fight.

. Nobody knows or cares which entries you read. There is no
obligation to read or respond to any particular item.

. RSS is efficient: You can quickly scan a large number of RSS
feeds, reading just the items that hold real interest for you.

How does RSS work?

RSS is written in the Internet coding language known as XML (eXtensible
Markup Language), a widely used standard for information exchange on the
Internet. If a website or blog offers an RSS feed, the site software
organizes the RSS feed content and makes it available for polling. Your RSS
reader polls all the RSS feeds you want to follow for new content. It’s much
like downloading email, except that you do not need an account to access the
feed (a few feeds do require passwords though).

Example: FeedDemon is a widely used RSS feed reader, and my screenshot below
indicates what you’d see in FeedDemon if you subscribe to a large number of
RSS feeds. Notice that the “Google Alerts – adot loop 303” feed is open
there. That feed is from my perpetual Google News search for “adot loop 303”
(without the quotes). Notice that there are two unread entries and one
expanded entry in the feed. The open one shows an excerpt and a link to the
full Pebble Creek HOA announcement.

There are five other subscriptions in the “Morning Coffee” folder, and it’s
a simple matter to click on them in turn, scan the headlines, and read the
items of interest. Each one of the other folders slso contains
subscriptions. Clicking a folder itself displays the unread entries for all
the subscriptions in the folder. Alternatively, if the folder is open,
individual subscriptions can be scanned one at a time. You can see that
there are 63 unread entries in the cosmos folder. I’ll probably read a
dozen or so of them when I scan that folder. But if I chose, I could just
mark the entire folder read and move on.

http://www.techsupportalert.com/files/images/pbs/reader.png

Where do you find RSS feeds?

http://www.techsupportalert.com/files/images/pbs/icons.gifMany big websites
offer RSS feeds, particularly news and technical websites. Google publishes
feeds as part of many of their services; for example, you can get an RSS
feed of new items for any search you’ve make in Google News
.

http://news.google.com/

Thousands upon thousands of bloggers, podcasters, and vidcasters publish RSS
feeds to get their content out to readers, listeners, and viewers.

You’ll often find one or more of these icons or badges at a website that
offers RSS feeds. You can “subscribe” to as many or as few of them as you
want. The large orange icon is the universal RSS indicator (it’s often shown
much smaller). Clicking one of the other badges will add a subscription to
Google Reader, NewsGator, NetVibes, etc. (if you have an online account for
the one you click).

Sometimes the only RSS feed indication comes from hidden auto-discovery
markers that browsers look for. If there is one, the browser gives an
indication that one or more feeds exist. You subscribe to those hidden feeds
directly from your browser when its RSS icon lights up. I’ve written a short
“How-to” detailing how to set up Firefox
to discover feeds as an example.

(Note from Dan: When visiting this link, the page could not be displayed.
But I will include a link to where the article entitled “how to set up
Firefox” is located in case it becomes active later today again.)

http://www.techsupportalert.com/content/what-rss-all-about.htm-0

Examples of available feeds:

Chicago Tribune

http://www.chicagotribune.com/

CNET

http://www.chicagotribune.com/

BBC News

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/help/rss/default.stm

Yahoo!

https://www.yahoo.com/?err=404&err_url=http%3a%2f%2fnews.yahoo.com%2fsitemap
%2f

How do you read RSS feeds?

If you only want to subscribe to a few RSS feeds you can read them directly
in all major browsers. There are also simple browser add-ons that make it
more convenient to manage RSS subscriptions and read the entries. Something
like a dozen feeds is the practical limit for simple extensions though. At
that point, a separate feed reader, or a more capable browser add-on becomes
more practical.

There are also several good web-apps for accessing and reading RSS feeds
online. Feedly and Inoreader are prime examples.

Hundreds if not thousands of feed readers are available – many of them free.
Apparently it’s easy to write a feed reader – the RSS protocol is very
simple, and many hackers try their hand at it. But there are only a few
good, well-maintained readers to choose from. I’ve used or tried many
different RSS browser add-ons, web-apps and readers. Most of them have one
or two really nice features, but are flawed in other areas. See my
conclusions in Best Free RSS Reader-Aggregator
,

Found at this link:

http://www.techsupportalert.com/best-free-rss-reader-aggregator.htm

which describes and lists good RSS readers of all kinds.

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