What is RSS? A simple, non-techie explanation


The short answer...

    RSS provides an easy way for a web site to let you know when it has fresh news so you don't need to keep checking it all the time.


The longer answer...

    RSS stands for...

    RSS stands for "Real Simple Syndication", or "Rich Site Summary" depending on who you ask. Web sites that use RSS set up something called an "RSS feed" as part of an automated method of letting interested people know when the web site has fresh news available for reading. You can recognize web sites that support RSS because they have a clickable RSS or XML link, often in the form of a button that looks something like , RSS or XML. In case you are curious, XML stands for "Extensible Markup Language". It is the name of the format RSS is based on. If that sounds like gibberish don't worry about it. Just remember that RSS links sometimes appear as "XML" rather than "RSS".

    What good is it?

    You may be asking, "Ok, but what's in it for me?" Well, let's say you have dozen or so web sites you visit to catch up on news, favorite blogs, and special interests. You may frequently visit those sites to check for anything new only to discover some the sites have not changed since your last visit. What if your web browser could automatically check those sites and give you a quick summary of what's new on the sites that have changed so you can decide which ones to visit? That's what RSS does! You can use your web browser to subscribe to any web site that provides an RSS feed. Your web browser will then flag those sites whenever they have something new so you will know when to visit them. The only catch is that you need a web browser that supports RSS.

    Ok, but how do I use it?

    Internet Explorer 7.0 and FireFox are the two most popular web browsers that support RSS (FireFox refers to RSS as Live Bookmarks). Both web browsers use an icon to indicate when the current web page has an RSS feed available. Click the icon and then click "Subscribe to this feed". The web browser will then track when there is anything new on the subscribed web page.

    Alternatively, you can use Google's Google Reader web based service to stay up to date on news from your favorite web sites via RSS.

    More information...

    If you are interested in the gory details about RSS you can find them at this Harvard RSS web site which is considered to be an authority on the subject.



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