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How To Use RSS

This post is aimed at non-technical blog readers with the intention of introducing and explaining content syndication with RSS.

Introducing RSS

RSS is an acronym for ‘Really Simple Syndication’ and is a technology for syndicating (sharing) content.

RSS is used for syndication of content in a broad range of media:

Click to open an example of an RSS file (also called an “RSS feed”) in a new window.

Notice that the RSS feed contains recent posts from my blog, and all information about each post. You’ll also notice that all of the information about each post is wrapped in named “tags” with < and >.

The tags are used to describe and name each piece of data. For example, I could write a computer program to read all of the “title” and “description” tags. The great thing is that once the data has been marked up in this tagged RSS syntax, it can be read on any computer system in the world.

This is possible because the data has been marked up in these simple to read ‘tags’.

Things you can do with RSS:

Lets say for instance that you find a blog that you find really useful (like mine). You could use a piece of software called an RSS Reader to read my blog locally on your computer, or on the web. The RSS Reader will automatically update you with new articles that I publish.

Another example: I recently built a web site about Britney Spears. I used an RSS Feed from Google news to display news about Britney on the site. Any time the feed is updated, the site is automatically updated.

RSS Readers / Aggregators

Most non technical folks use RSS by simply reading its content with an aggregator. You’ve probably seen icons like these on blogs or other news sites:

Each of these icons indicate that a feed exists and provide a link that allows you to load the feed into a particular RSS Reader.

Click here for a list of web based aggregators, or here for desktop aggregators.

Conclusion

RSS is a great medium for syndication of content, and eventually RSS will be everywhere. Thousands of sites currently use RSS and more people understand its usefulness everyday.

By using RSS, information on the web becomes easier to find and content publishers can spread their information more easily to anybody interested.

Hopefully, future versions of RSS will contain additional “tags” that will make it even easier to categorize and share.

My next post will be geared for developers.