How Do RSS Feeds Work?

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You have a favorite news website, you love to keep up with the events posted on your community’s website, and you have a dozen (or more) favorite blogs or podcasts with fresh content every week.

Checking each site one by one will take forever. Signing up for their emails could ensure you catch new information, but it’s also easy to mistake the emails as spam or to ignore them altogether in your crowded inbox. Relying on the site’s social media updates might mean you miss something important.

In an RSS feed, however, these updates and notifications are gathered, organized, and updated in real-time and placed into one place for you to see all at once.

What Is RSS?

RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication. It refers to files easily read by a computer called XML files that automatically update information.

This information is fetched by a user’s RSS feed reader that converts the files into the latest updates from websites in an easy to read format. It feeds you headlines, summaries, update notices, and links back to articles on your favorite website’s page.

This content is distributed in real time, so that the top results on the RSS feed are always the latest published content for a website.

An RSS feed allows you to create your own customized eZine of the most up-to-date content for the topics and websites you are interested about.

How Does the Information Get from the Website to Your Feed?

The author of your favorite website or podcast creates an RSS feed that maintains a list of new updates or notifications. You can check this list on your own, or you can subscribe to the feed so updates will show up in your own feed reader. This keeps you apprised of updates immediately.

What Does the Information Look Like?

In a feed reader, you’ll see brief and basic information about the full content. These are posted in chronological order so that the top entry is the latest published entry.

The RSS feed shows you a title, description, and link back to the original content. This helps you to quickly weed through what interests you and what doesn’t. When you find something you like, you can click through for the full content.

It’s All Thanks to an Aggregator

So how does this really work? An aggregator is responsible for the convenience of RSS feeds.

The RSS aggregator checks websites for new content automatically. It immediately pulls that content over to your feed so you don’t have to go and check each website individually to find new content.

The aggregator even keeps track of what you have and have not read by listing the number of articles or pieces of content for each website you are following that has not been seen. This helps you to more quickly see what’s going on within the websites that interest you.

How Can You Add Websites to Your RSS Feed Reader?

More and more, websites are making this process simple for you. When you are on your favorite website, look for a small orange icon with the letters RSS or XML. When you click on that icon, you add that web address or link to your reader. You can also search for a website within your reader and add it to your feed.

The beauty of RSS feeds is they are typically very customizable within your reader or from the website you’re following. Choose to be updated only on the sports or art section of your local newspaper.

Select a specialized Google news alert to be delivered to you via your feed. Set search parameters on Craigslist for something you’re hoping to find, and receive updates that match your search qualifications.

Even with countless ways to receive information these days, the RSS feeder still holds its own as an important way for you to stay updated on what’s important to you.

Customizable to your tastes, an RSS feed ensures you don’t miss or forget the information that is important only to you.

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