Technology

What is an RSS feed?

By Matt Williamson
Info Guru, Catalogs.com

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What is an RSS feed and how do I use it? RSS can help you keep up to date on all the latest news and information whilst saving you valuable time.
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What an RSS feed is and how to use it

Do you get fed up of having to wade through all your bookmarked websites checking for updates?

Wouldn't it be great if you could get all your latest news and information collected in one source?

Well, thanks to a system developed by blogs, there is now a way of having all your news and articles delivered straight to your homepage. Instead of spending time checking through all your favourite sites, you can sit back and allow the latest content to come straight to you. Why waste time walking to the newsagent when you can have your newspaper delivered to your door?

The system is known as RSS (Really Simple Syndication) and is now used by most news sites, and even some shopping sites such as Ebay. RSS is the technical name for the 'news feed' of a website's latest content. You can recognise whether a site has an RSS feed because they will display the RSS symbol: an orange box with three circular white lines emitting from the bottom left corner.

RSS has also developed as a way of countering the problem of spam clogging up email inboxes. Important information is either blocked by junk filters, or simply not read due to the torrent of irrelevant messages received everyday. RSS enables publishers to automatically distribute their updates to subscribers, whilst readers have control over what content they receive and can unsubscribe at any time.

So now that you know the answer to what is an RSS feed , how do you subscribe to one? RSS can be used with just your standard email account. Simply enter your email address into the website's subscription box and you will receive updates delivered straight to your inbox.

The current most common method of utilising RSS is by registering for a free 'aggregator' account. Aggregators are used in a similar way to email for reading and then deleting messages. The big difference is that you can only receive information, you can't write or reply.

Popular aggregators are Newsgator, Bloglines, Rojo and Feedmarker. You register on the website for free and then all your news feeds can be collected into one source for you to read at your leisure.

So how do you subscribe to a website's RSS feed? Simply click on the RSS symbol and select your chosen aggregator program, which should then automatically open to confirm the new feed has been added.

If you click on the RSS symbol and you are presented with a screen of gibberish then you need to go back, right click on the RSS symbol and select 'Copy Shortcut'. Then you simply open your aggregator, select to add a new feed and paste in the copied information. The new feed will then be added to your subscription list.

If you have a Google or MyYahoo account then you are probably receiving RSS feeds already. Your subscribed news and information is delivered straight to your homepage, and you simply click on the links to be taken through to the main article. You might have been using RSS for months without even realising it.

Usage of RSS has been mainly amongst the internet savvy, people who understand how it works and have set-up an aggregator to capture their feeds. This is all set to change very soon and RSS will be as simple to use as just clicking on a button.

The new version of Internet Explorer is due to launch imminently, and this will make it easier than ever to use RSS to capture the latest news and information. Internet Explorer 7 features an RSS button in the middle of its toolbar, which lights up and makes a sound whenever you land on a site with a feed. It is then simply a case of clicking on the button and your favourite news will be delivered straight to your browser. If you know how to bookmark sites then you'll be able to start using RSS, its that simple.

RSS is spreading to sites all over the web, and when Internet Explorer 7 launches you can expect it to be used even more. Whether its for sending you the latest news, shopping information or business articles, RSS provides an excellent way for distributing content, and means you can keep up to date with the latest news delivered straight to your screen.

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