Really Simple Syndication
What is RSS and what can it do for you?
RSS is a way for web sites to publish their content into a format that a computer can understand.
- Date published
- Link to the original source
What Problem Does RSS Solve?
We all have different sites on the Internet that we like to visit again and again. Usually we save this sites in our bookmarks and click on the bookmark to return to the site. Then we start reading, stopping when we reach stuff that looks like we’ve read it before. It’s something we all do, and it works perfectly fine unless you’re trying to read a lot of information — then it can be slow because you don’t know when a site has updated, and you don’t know where you stopped reading before.
RSS solves this problem. Every website that supports RSS has a list of new information (with a title, description and link back to the source) and the time when it was published. We can use computer programs called RSS readers to keep track of the websites we want to follow and what we have and haven’t read on those sites.
Your RSS reader program gives you a one-stop place to visit all of the sites that you think are important on the Internet. You follow a site by subscribing to its RSS feed (like subscribing to a newspaper, but with less clutter). Then instead of using your bookmarks to visit the site you use your RSS reader to keep track of what’s new.
This video explains RSS better than I ever could. You can view a better quality version of the video here.
The first thing you need to use RSS is a program that can read RSS feeds. I recommend:
How Do I Know If a Site Supports RSS?
Look for the RSS icon. If you’re using Firefox, you’ll be able to see the RSS icon in the address bar for RSS enabled websites.
When you see the icon click on it and you’ll be prompted to subscribe to the site. Try it:
So you’ve got a way to keep up to date on your favorite websites. Instead of visiting the websites or getting them email to you, you can read them in your RSS reader. Here’s a few other things you can do with RSS.
Activity Streaming or Lifestreaming
As you use different websites on the Internet, it’s really easy to take all that information you’re creating (uploading photos, commenting on sites, sharing links) and put it all in one place. If you’ve ever used Facebook, it’s like the Facebook mini-feed but for the entire Internet. I recommend Friend Feed for lifestreaming.
RSS is a way to manage more information. Yahoo has released a really nifty tool called Pipes that lets you create filters on any RSS feed. Unfortunately, it’s a bit hard to create a pipe unless you’re already a geek. But it’s easy to search for a pipe that already does what you want.
This is where you start to really see the power of RSS: people can take all those RSS feeds and build interesting services on top of them.
- http://popurls.com/ – what’s most popular on the web
- http://alltop.com/ – the latest headlines from the most popular sites based on genre
- http://techmeme.com/ – the latest technology related stories
- http://www.rssmeme.com/ – the most popular stories people are sharing (tech heavy)
- http://linkriver.com/popular/week/ – what people are sharing (tech heavy)
- http://readburner.com/ – what people are sharing (tech heavy)
Photo by kk
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