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What is RSS

May 3rd, 2010

What is RSS?

RSS stands for ‘Really Simple Syndication’.  (Sometimes it is referred to as ‘Rich Site Summary’). Basically RSS delivers updated and changing content to anyone subscribed to that particular RSS feed.  News feeds are very popular for instance as news is constantly updating throughout the day. If you were to have to continually monitor a news site for new information this would quickly become tedious and very time consuming.

The first thing you will need is an RSS reader. There are many of these and are either browser based or a downloadable application. Personally I use iGoogle and this is the most popular, although your could try My Yahoo,  Feedster or Bloglines. They all perform the same function of notifying you if there is any new content in your subscribed RSS feeds. You only need one reader for all of your RSS feed subscriptions.

The obvious advantage of browser based RSS readers is that they are accessible from any computer, similar to an email hotmail account. Downloadable applications allow you to store the information on your computer, as you would your email in outlook.

Once you have chosen which reader to use you simply have to decide which content you would like to subscribe to. For instance a weather buff could subscribe to the BBC weather feed. Simply go to the BBC weather page and look for the familiar orange RSS feed button. Click on this to subscribe and all content will be delivered to your RSS reader. When there is an update you can just click on the headline to take you back to the new content on the subscribed website.

As the feed itself is more a means of notification than anything else, the information contained is very basic. Usually it is a clickable headline followed by a short description, and this is fine because that’s all we need. Some RSS feeds are set up to display the entire content of an updated post,  but a brief headline is more common.

More and more sites are now taking advantage of RSS, and you can tell if a site has a feed as it will display the standard square, orange button on its page, or else this same button can be found in your url browser, usually on the right hand side.

From a search engine optimisation point of view, RSS feeds provide great backlinks to your site, and allow direct traffic from surfers interested in what you have to say. Blogging platforms are very popular with RSS as it is such an easy way to discover when your favourite blogger  has added a new post. Social media also use RSS, so you could maybe subscribe to the feed of your favourites on Twitter, and be alerted as to when they post an update, rather than continually checking back to their page.

So why not subscribe to my updates now by clicking on the orange RSS  icon above right, with the word ‘POSTS’ after it.



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