RSS Frequently Asked Questions

What is RSS?

RSS (most commonly expanded as Really Simple Syndication) is a family of web feed formats used to publish frequently updated works—such as blog entries, news headlines, audio, and video—in a standardized format. An RSS document (which is called a "feed", "web feed", or "channel") includes full or summarized text, plus metadata such as publishing dates and authorship. Web feeds benefit publishers by letting them syndicate content automatically. They benefit readers who want to subscribe to timely updates from favored websites or to aggregate feeds from many sites into one place.

What is an RSS Reader?

RSS feeds can be read using software called an "RSS reader", "feed reader", or "aggregator", which can be web-based, desktop-based, or mobile-device-based. A standardized XML file format allows the information to be published once and viewed by many different programs. The user subscribes to a feed by entering into the reader the feed's URI (a URI, or Uniform Resource Identifier, looks and acts like a standard web hyperlink but is tailored to handle RSS feeds) or by clicking an RSS icon in a web browser that initiates the subscription process. The RSS reader checks the user's subscribed feeds regularly for new work, downloads any updates that it finds, and provides a user interface to monitor and read the feeds.

There are many different kinds of readers and new ones crop up all the time. Some are installed on your desktop, others are web-based, some are connected with your e-mail software, and some are connected with your browser. The kind of reader you use may be influenced by the operating system of your computer. Browser based news readers let you read RSS feeds from any computer, whereas other readers will only have feeds available on the computer that it is installed on.

You can get more information about different kinds of readers and download some of them here.

How do you subscribe to RSS feeds?

Just click on the specified RSS feed link or the RSS button when you see it. Some browsers automatically look for RSS feeds whenever you visit a web site and will show the RSS icon in the far right of the address bar when it finds RSS on the site. If you click on the RSS icon in the address, you will be able to see the feed and choose how you want to subscribe.

Here is a sample of what it looks like:

RSS Sample Image #1

On other sites, depending on your browser and the way the site is coded, you may click on an RSS button on the page and see something like this:

RSS Sample Image #2

In this case, just copy the address at the top and paste it into your reader to subscribe.

The exact process of subscribing to a feed depends upon the particular feed reader software you are using. Be sure to consult the instructions of your feed reader for more information.