You’re probably reading this page because you’re wondering something along the lines of: What’s RSS and what’s in it for me?
Well, I’m glad you asked about it, because RSS freaking ROCKS.
If you’re interested in keeping up with the latest posts on a blog like this one, you could always subscribe for email updates. But RSS feeds let you get your updates whenever YOU want rather than whenever the emailer decides to send them.
Another benefit of RSS is that there is no need to divulge your e-mail address. Because you don’t need to give out your e-mail address, you don’t need to worry about me using it to spam you (not like I ever would, but still). And if you ever want to unsubscribe, you can do it yourself with a single mouse click; there’s no need to ask someone else to unsubscribe you.
Subscribing via RSS totally puts the ball in your court: you decide when and what you’ll receive, and you decide whether or not to keep receiving the content or to send it into oblivion by clicking “unsubscribe.”
If RSS new to you, it may sound kind of intimidating and scary, but trust me: RSS is easy. And it’s your FRIEND.
So by now you’re thinking, “Sounds cool. But WTF is RSS? RSS is just an easy way for people to get updates about changing web content through something called “feeds.” That’s it. To get updates about new site content, you just subscribe to the feeds you want and then read them through a feed reader.
EEEK! There she goes with the geek terminology again — what on god’s green earth is a feed reader? Don’t worry, feed readers are just applications that let you easily subscribe to, manage, and read RSS feeds. In fact, you might be using a feed reader already and not realize it: many personalized web services (such as My Yahoo or Google Personalized) have feed readers built seamlessly into their interfaces. Feed readers provide the nifty technology that puts all that cool stuff like weather, quotes of the day, and various news updates on your personalized pages.
Some browsers, such as Firefox, let you get RSS feeds from your toolbar; Firefox calls this “live bookmarks.” There are also extensions for Firefox that let you add a built-in Feed reader (I use Google Reader).
You can also use stand-alone feed readers, which are similar to email clients or Usenet readers, but for feeds. Lifehacker is a good place to search for recommendations about stand-alone feed readers. Here’s a good list of online and stand-alone feed readers to get you started.
So although the acronym RSS may make it sound intimidating, it’s really quite simple to use. And the few minutes of time you might need to invest in checking it out are well worth it when you realize the benefits of RSS — what’s in it for you.
So how the heck do you subscribe to an RSS feed?
Most bloggers and RSS-enabled websites will provide an RSS icon or a “subscribe to my feed” link. On my site you can find the main subscription icons in the footer of the page (scroll down — it’s those pretty pink icons on the bottom right).
A feed management site called FeedBurner is quite frequently used to make the subscription process as painless as possible. The icon is becoming a standard: it looks something like this:
A lot of blogs provide several proprietary icons for the various feed readers and applications that are available
Additionally, some website administrators use those cryptic orange buttons that say XML or RSS. If you merrily click on one of those icons, don’t expect wondrous things to happen: you usually just end up with a page full of code that looks like gibberish. If that happens, all you need to do is right-click on the icon and copy the URL, and then paste it into your the subscription field in your feed reader.
That’s really about it! So don’t be put off by the acronym: RSS is really useful, and it’s not as hard as you might think.
Thanks to Copyblogger for the original article that formed the basis for this one.