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Thursday, December 28, 2006

What Is RSS ?, Why Use RSS ?

RSS has become a valuable technology for everything from casual web users to webmasters. According to a recent Yahoo survey only 12% of internet users are aware of RSS and a mere 4% have knowingly used RSS. RSS exists as a means to gather and display information quickly and easily. By the end of this article, you should know what RSS is and how to use it to make your life easier.

What exactly is this RSS thing?

RSS stands for several things, the most widely accepted being Really Simple Syndication. RSS is often described as being a feed, which one subscribes to. RSS feeds are frequently updated and distributed in the XML format, allowing for custom tags. You have probably seen small, often orange, RSS or XML icons on websites. These icons link to that website’s feed. We still haven’t gotten to what kind of content RSS feeds hold. It depends on whose feed you are viewing, but RSS feeds often include the title of the article and a small excerpt or even the whole article. Viewing someone’s feed is referred to as aggregation as you are gathering all of the latest entries. RSS has become extremely popular with blogs as the headline format comes naturally.

Why should I use it?

Using RSS can save you lots of time on a daily basis. Let’s say you visit a collection of 5 tech news websites three times a day. Currently, you visit them one by one in your browser, look for a new story and then go on. Going through all 5 sites might take 3-4 minutes or more if you find a new article. With RSS, all you do is go into an RSS feed reader, or RSS aggregator, and you will instantly know which websites have new articles and which don’t. You will also be able to see past entries with RSS. If you were to only visit the website, you could miss an article if you don’t visit frequently enough or get bored of seeing the same article if you visit to frequently. RSS fits in perfectly with this scenario. Now, imagine if you wanted to keep tabs on 25 websites. RSS easily proves indispensable. You have probably already used RSS before… Google’s customizable homepage gets your news from RSS feeds, as does My Yahoo.

There are essentially two types: web-based and application-based. With a web-based aggregator you can check your feeds from any computer but this comes at the cost of limited functionality and speed. With application-based feed readers you get excellent features and speed but lack mobility.

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