What is RSS?

Unlike conventional sites which rarely change their contents, blogs and more dynamic sites (like this one) are updated frequently. In order to know when new content is added, without always having to return to a site, you can subscribe to a 'feed'. 'Feed readers' take the content from selected blogs or sites and deliver it to you, all in one place. This means you can scan and select new and updated material from lots of sites without having to visit each one individually.

Web feeds are just a special kind of web page, designed to be read by computers rather than people. They deliver new content directly to you as soon as it is published online. You can subscribe to receive new stories and headlines instantly, rather than having to look for the latest updates online. The 'news' can be any kind of content. On our site, we offer a feed for our blog, our events, and our job listings. Subscribing to web feeds is also known as 'syndication' or 'aggregation'.


  • Keeping up-to-date with the information you want can be a drag. With feeds, you get the latest news and features delivered directly to you as it happens, without clicking from site to site.
  • You can browse headlines from lots of different sites in one place.
  • Unlike getting website updates by email, there’s no email address involved with feeds; so there’s no email marketing, no spam, no viruses, no phishing, no identity theft.
  • If you want to stop receiving news, you don’t have to send an ‘unsubscribe’ request; one click and the subscription is gone immediately.

How to use it

You need a feed reader, which is a tool a bit like an email program. It’s like getting an email every time one of your subscriptions updates their content, except no email address is required. There are many feed readers. Some are online (like a webmail account), some are offline (you download the program to your computer), some are free and some aren’t.

You may have come across feed readers already. If you use personalised home page services like My Yahoo or iGoogle, you’ve got a feed reader already – that’s how content like news, weather and stock quotes appear on your personal page. You can also add content from any site with feeds to your page to get updates.

Other web-based tools are primarily dedicated to feed reading only. Popular web-based feed readers at this point include Bloglines, and Google Reader. If you use the Firefox browser, you can also receive feeds from your tool bar by using the Live Bookmarks function. Internet Explorer has this feature as well.

Finally, there are desktop-based feed readers, like NetNewsWire for Mac and Feed Demon for PC, that are like an email program on your computer for web feeds.

How to add Feeds to your feed reader

Not all websites currently provide feeds, but it is growing rapidly in popularity and many sites (not just blogs), including the Guardian, New York Times and CNN now provide them. First, look for the subscription or feed options. Many websites have links labelled ‘XML’, ‘RSS’ or ‘Atom’; or they may have an orange button. Look in the top right of your navigation bar – many browsers indicate there whether the page you are visiting has a feed.

Then, you can either click the relevant links (e.g. the ‘add to my Yahoo!’ button, if you’re using My Yahoo!) or copy-paste the link in to your feed reader. Sometimes there will be a button for your particular feed reader on the blog that will take you to the appropriate subscription page.

Happy Reading!

What is RSS content courtesy of Communicopia