What is an RSS Feed?
RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication (or in some cases, Rich Site Summary). Usually RSS is confused with other similar terms like XML, syndicates (syndicated contents), Atom, or web feeds by they all essentially work the same.
Like the real sense of ‘feeding,’ the role of a feed on the web is to syndicate fresh contents from the websites linked or subscribed unto. Whenever one website adds a new content, the heading—usually—or the title jumps up as an item on the list, notifying users about a new content that they may want to look at.
RSS was invented and introduced by Netscape as a response to their attempt in getting more audience to their business. There was hardly any good record of what was the first version of RSS, but it surely started out using the XML standard. The versions of RSS developed dramatically, though not that lengthy, ending up to only RSS 2.0 as the latest version.
In relation to XML, feeds use a standard format (.xml or .rss) in delivering specific contents so that they fit to RSS readers or aggregators. It would be another story to explain how the standard format is written with all the necessary elements, but as of now, all you need to know is that, XML refers to the file to be syndicated by your appropriate program. Atom is an alternative to using XML, but basically, they both work the same.
You’ll know the presence of RSS on a website or a blog with its familiar icon/s (www.thetwowayweb.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/rss_xml_atom_feeds_news_icon.jpg). If you see any of these icons located anywhere, or if you find any offers like ‘subscribe to RSS/feeds’ or ‘syndicate this site,’ then you know the contents can all be yours on your feed reader.
RSS has been with the computers for a while now, and it has been claimed (and to be verified yet) that RSS works on PC systems as aged as Windows 95. However, for XML pages to properly load, feeds require a compatible browser that supports required mark-up languages.
Moreover, news or stories loaded on the RSS list requires data or internet connection to load, update, and open. It is also presumable that you must have an app or software installed for your feed URLs to work on. Modern feed aggregators offer extensive features already, including some well-sought options like ‘save for later.’
With the growth of the web industry which implies expansion in the niche of technology, these feed aggregators are now offered also on virtually any other devices that supports web or data connection and browsing. Some of the most known apps that you may want to try out are: Feedly, Pulse, Flipboard, FeedReader, and RSSReader. The once-popular Google Reader was unfortunately discontinued recently, which made a lot of its users transfer mostly to using the apps listed above.
Other forms of readers may come also in desktop gadgets, browser plug-ins or extensions, and even online apps which do not require any prior installation.
Benefits of Using Feeds
Since before the expansion of the web industry, the idea behind using feeds was actually eminent already though applied on the print industry. The main benefit to using feeds is convenience: viewers, regular visitors, fans, and subscribers of a particular company or interest will no longer need to go back to the site repeatedly just to get updated with the freshest contents.
RSS feeds, when compiled and properly organized using a preferred aggregator or reader, gives the privilege also of seeing virtually all updates from all sources at once. This saves the effort of continually opening separate tabs or windows for each site they are intending to visit or navigate.
For those who are particular with the amount of data being used or being given, using feeds can also help eliminate the need to waste bytes of data since what they only get are a pinch of the real contents. Being optimized also for easy and quick viewing, the usual distractions such as advertisements may also be avoided.
Henceforth, most RSS readers or aggregators do not need a browser to work on (if you are using a non-browser-dependent app). This also means that users enjoy looking at the freshest contents without wasting too much system resource. Virtually all of these tools also promise an auto-refresh or auto-update feature, and this should also give you quick peace of mind.
For the advertisers and publishers, having their contents ‘burned’ into feeds also eliminates the waste of time, energy, and resource. Contents can be better and more easily ‘subscribed’, which means another window to getting more traffic and credibility. Having a quick feed link also allows a near-instantaneous distribution of content, and this may be helpful if they are trying to avoid being spammy especially when they’re doing it via e-mail campaigns.
How to Get Feeds
The basic steps for getting feeds directly from a site or blog you’re in are:
- Go to the blog or the website that you want contents be directed from. If you prefer to get feeds from a specific category, be sure to get into the right page.
- Locate any RSS/feeds icons or indicators on the page.
- Right-click on the icon and choose to copy the URL/link/address.
- Paste the link into the proper text field of your feed reader or aggregator.
Modern aggregators usually support a search option wherein you can directly search a source without going over search engines and going directly to the proper site. Better than this, they can also come with preset categories with a good list of feed sources which may be better and more appropriate for what you are looking for.
These modern aggregators do also allow the use of a single account to view the same subscriptions or feeds regardless the device. This sync feature enhances people’s access to feeds, and since settings are saved on the cloud, these feeds will continue to update according to set preferences.
Feel free to explore what your feed aggregators can do and cannot do. With the rush of different forms of digital contents like music files, links, images, interactive objects, and videos, you may want to get sure that your aggregator would at least support these new data presentations.
If you are an advertiser or a publisher, you would be happy to know that modern Content Management Systems (CMS) support an automatic XML conversion feature, meaning, you don’t have to do it yourself.
Just in case you are missing out of that feature, you may try some tools offered out there. Among the most famous is FeedBurner (www.feedburner.com), an online tool that you can use to prepare an RSS link for your blog or website. Others like Aweber, Feedcat, Feedblitz, and Feedity may charge you a little or more, but at least they offer unique features of their own, and they stand as healthy alternatives to FeedBurner.