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What is RSS?

RSS Icon

RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication. There are plenty of descriptions of what RSS is on the web, but even after reading its many definitions, most can still can leave you confused about what it does for you. Allow me to explain it in layman’s terms.

RSS Similar to Email

Think of RSS in terms of email. When someone sends you an email, you typically either receive it via an external program such as Microsoft Outlook or by a web-based application, such as Hotmail or Gmail. Easy, right? RSS is essentially the same thing. If you are subscribed to a particular website’s RSS feed, you will receive a copy of the site’s latest posts, updates and/or articles by using a feed reader. Think of it as a website emailing you its latest content.

A Feed Reader?

Feed readers are the programs you can use to view your feeds. There are external applications (like Outlook for email) you can download and install on your computer. I use FeedDemon and recommend it to anyone who wants to use a stand-alone program. If installing another program onto your computer isn’t feasible or you prefer to use your web browser, there are plenty of web-based feed reader options (like Hotmail & Gmail for email) for you, too. I haven’t used any myself, so I can’t make any recommendations, but here are some of the most popular:

Firefox users may wish to take advantage of its live bookmarks feature which acts as a feed reader as part of the browser. These aren’t your only options so you may want to do a quick search via your preferred search engine for ‘feed reader’.

So How Does This Help Me?

Chances are you visit more than one website a day. Think of how much time you spend going from site to site. This probably takes up a significant amount of time during your day that you could better use. Say you visit the same 10 websites each day and you take an hour to go from site to site, picking out the stories that interest you. With RSS you open your reader and every new article from all 10 websites will be right there for you. You can skim through the titles and choose the stories you want to read. The one hour you took before is now cut down to fifteen or twenty minutes. Now that you know what RSS is, you don’t have any excuse not to subscribe to our feed!

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