What is RSS?

RSS Icon Ever wonder what this cute yellow icon represents? Well, It represents RSS Feeds. RSS actually stands for RDF Site Summary but it’s commonly referred to as Really Simple Syndication. Its an open standard that allows web content to be to be collated and aggregated together using XML (Xtensible Markup Language) Technology. Its not the only standard for serving feeds as there is also ATOM. There’s a lot to RSS and Feeds in general but I’ll try and break it down as much as possible

To easily understand what it is, let’s imagine this scenario: I have 24/7 internet at home and I love browsing on movies, games, tech blogs and so on. Assuming my favourite sites are:

  1. www.youtube.com
  2. www.amazon.com
  3. www.ebay.com
  4. www.cnet.com
  5. www.yahoo.com
  6. www.gametrailers.com
  7. www.gamespot.com
  8. www.imdb.com
  9. www.boxoffice.com
  10. www.techcrunch.com
  11. www.techrepublic.com

So every day to check for new content, I would have to go through the above sites one after another. Isn’t that a hassle? And maybe before I finish checking www.techrepublic.com , a new YouTube video might be uploaded. RSS was invented to tackle this problem. It’s simply a structured way to organise site content in a way that all kinds of software like websites, browsers, mobile applications, widgets (or gadgets) e.t.c can access and notify you of updates. That’s where the yellow icon comes in wherever you see it; you know it links to the feed URL. So in order to solve my problem, I would first need to get a feed aggregator. It’s a software package that can check for RSS feeds from various locations and arrange and collate them together. There are many Feed Aggregators and I would like to classify them into the following categories

  1. Browsers – If you use browsers like Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Safari or Opera (Chrome doesn’t have by default) then you can use its inbuilt feed aggregator. Just go ahead and click the RSS link (Usually located at the top right corner of your browser)
  2. Web Applications – So far the only web application that allows you to manage your RSS is Google Reader (reader.google.com ) There you can either search for feeds or add your own url
  3. Gadgets – Gadgets or Widgets in some platforms are small pieces of applications that are embedded into other applications e.g Google Sidebar, Opera Widgets e.t.c Most of them also come with RSS Feed Aggregators
  4. Mobile Applications: In my own opinion, this is the best way to consume RSS Feeds. Most smartphones: Android, Symbian, iOS and RIM (Blackberry) all have a form of RSS Feed Aggregator. Even if you dont have a smartphone, you should get Snaptu and install it on your java enabled phone and you can subscribe to your favorite RSS Feeds. It can also get your feeds from Google Reader.

After I have any of the above feed aggregators, I will then visit all my favorite sites and start clicking on the RSS icons of each site. I will add the URL to any of the above aggregators. When Im done, all I have to do is go to my RSS Feeds aggregator and Voila! I can now access all of my favorite websites at once.

Practice

Try Browsing your favorite sites looking out for RSS Feeds or The cute Yellow Icon above. After you find it, click it and click subscribe (if your browser supports RSS) or copy the URL in your browser

Then Goto to your preffered aggregator. If you don’t have, you can goto reader.google.com, Login or Sign and add the feed URL there

I hope you find this tutorial useful. This blog also supports RSS Feeds as well. So please subscribe and get notified about recent posts. If you are having problems, reply this post with your issue and I’ll help you out. Cheers!

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About Ody

Web Developer/Programmer and Hardcore Gamer. Mainly interested in the Web and Web Technologies

2 thoughts on “What is RSS?

  1. Thanks Ody for this really enlightening post. You did mention that Smartphones have feed aggregators (I’m assuming built-in), my phone’s OS is Symbian S60 5th ed and I can’t find one, I’ll probably get Snaptu…thanks again. I’ve subsribed for feeds from the blog, I’ll go ahead and do the same for all my other favourite sites as well.

  2. Its better you use snaptu bcos of the poor implementation in S60v5 You can add feeds by browsing the source page with the default browser, goto options and select “Add Feed”. To view ur feeds, open ur browser goto options then select “more” then click feeds.
    U could also add the feed to a particular contact at the contacts bar. Facebook allows you to get a friends links as RSS Feeds

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