What is an RSS feed?
RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication and is a way of providing content or summaries of web content in a simple format. Most feeds consist of links to web pages, sometimes with a short description, but feeds can also include audio (podcasts) or video (vidcasts) content.
The advantage of RSS is that it helps you find new and updated content without you having to visit all the websites that interest you. The website’s RSS feed is read by a ‘reader’ or ‘aggregator’ which automatically checks to see which of your chosen feeds have updated content.
Step 1: get a RSS reader
Most web browsers, e.g. Internet Explorer (IE), Firefox, Chrome, can display a RSS feed but what you really need is an aggregator that will just show you what’s new, and allow you to create groups of feeds.
Using a web-based RSS reader means you can log in and view your RSS feeds from anywhere in the world. You will need to set up an account with the service.
- Designed for following blogs, this site has a very simple interface and a focus on social sharing. Can find feeds from the website’s homepage or name which makes discovery easy. Allows you to make groups and has Google Reader import.
- Has browser add-ons, as well as iOS, Kindle and Android apps for mobile. Syncs with twitter and facebook accounts.
- My Yahoo!
- Yahoo Xtra users can add RSS feeds to their My Yahoo! page.
- Provides a customisable homepage with plenty of widgets such as weather, stocks, to do lists etc as well as RSS feed reading. Connects with your social networks.
- Includes web and iOS/Android apps and social sharing options. Has a nice selection of options for reading including text-only for those who prefer a stripped down view.
There are loads of RSS reader apps for your mobile device. Just go to iTunes AppStore (iOS) or Play Store (Android) and search for RSS.
- BlogLovin’ - iOS app only (March 2013).
- Feedly - iOS, Kindle and Android apps.
- Flipboard - iOS and Android, flipboard turns your feeds into a
- NewsBlur - iOS and Android apps.
The following readers are stand-alone programmes that you install on your computer. Make sure that you check the details for compatibility with your system.
- CNet newsreaders and RSS readers - this downloads site allows users to rate software and has reviews. Iis a good place to start looking at readers.
- RSS bandit - works with Google Reader and Facebook.
- RSS Owl - works on Windows, Linux and Apple OS X.
- FeedDemon - allows you to assign keywords to watch for.
Find more at ReplaceReader - a site set up in the aftermath of Google’s announcement that they are ending Google Reader.
Step 2: find a feed that interests you
Most web sites will feature an RSS feed of new & updated content, however they don’t all make it easy to find. If your reader doesn’t allow you to search for sites by name look for:
- the RSS icon (this may display in your browser’s toolbar if it detects a feed), or
- an icon or text which reads feeds, XML or RSS, or
- icons of the key RSS readers.
When IE9 detects a feed in a page it displays the orange icon in the toolbar.
Feeds to start with
News sites feeds
Step 3: subscribe to the RSS feed
How you subscribe to RSS feeds will depend a bit on what reader/browser combination you choose to use. In general you will need to copy the URL of the feed or website and paste it into your feed reader.
- Find your feed/site in your web browser,
- To copy the RSS feed URL right-click the icon or link and select
Copy Link Location, or click on it and use the URL in your browser's address bar,
- Now go to your feed reader and find where you can subscribe to a feed and paste the RSS feed URL in (right-click and select
If you are using a web based reader you may be able to tell your browser to always use that reader to subscribe to feeds. Once this is set up you will be able to click on the RSS feed link and your browser will ask you whether you wish to subscribe to it, making the process easier. Some readers have browser add ons which do the same thing.
Find out more about RSS
- RSS in Plain English — a great little video from Common Craft.
- Search our catalogue for books and other resources about RSS feeds.
- Safari Tech Books online — a large selection of technical books online.
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