RSS Feeds Explained

You may have noticed that this newsletter and several other genealogy Web sites are available via RSS news feeds. So are thousands of other Web news sites covering a wide variety of topics. This article will hopefully explain what RSS feeds are and what they can offer you.

RSS is an abbreviation for “rich site summary” or “really simple syndication.” Most people don’t need to remember this definition any more than they would spell out “ATM.” As to the word “feed,” this simply describes the way information gets to people: web servers “feed” their information to those who ask for it. For those who want more technical detail, RSS feeds are composed in XML, a format that is similar to HTML, the standard language in which many Web pages are created. For a rather technical explanation of RSS, look at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RSS.

RSS has been available for years but many people are not yet aware of its capabilities. RSS can simplify your life and save time. It is an excellent method of avoiding the flood of internet security problems and email overload. RSS has become a popular way for news publishers to provide information without sending computer users to different Web sites, cluttering their email with spam, or exposing them to adware, spyware, worms, or viruses. These factors make it equally attractive to those who read their information.

Thousands of commercial web sites and blogs publish content summaries in RSS feeds. Each item in the feed typically contains a headline; article summary, and link to the full online article. Many webmasters have discovered they can easily use RSS feeds to provide fresh web content. It works better than e-mail newsletters, providing up-to-date information at any moment in time, but never blocked by spam filters.

The benefits of RSS feeds are not limited to webmasters; those who wish to read the content benefit from the technology as well. The beauty of RSS is that readers can quickly scan headlines (titles) and then read only the articles that interest them. Because the information is condensed and provided in a single location, readers can generally review more information in much less time. Additional information is only a click away. Best of all, readers choose the feeds they wish to see. There is no spam or other unwanted material with RSS.

The reader is always in complete control. You choose the feeds you want, and if you are not completely thrilled with the content of a feed, you simply remove it from your personal list of feeds. The technology is a “pull” technology rather than “push” technology, meaning that the content is not forced on the consumers; instead, they “pull” to their screen the content when they want to see it. Readers use a special “RSS newsreader” program that pulls the desired articles from the Web to the user’s computer, where they sit until the user is ready to look at them. RSS newsreaders are available for Windows, Macintosh, Android, Apple iOS (iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch), Windows Mobile, and probably for other computers as well. In addition, cloud-based RSS newsreaders are available on a number of web sites. To use them all you need is a web browser.

Using a newsreader to pull RSS feeds allows users to:

  1. Easily locate information.
  2. Read condensed information with clearly marked and dated topic material.
  3. Classify and categorize information in an easy-to-navigate manner.
  4. Maximize their time without having to deal with spam.

The newsreader constantly updates its contents and shows unread feeds. I found the newsreaders to work a lot like a simple email program. Anyone with an RSS newsreader installed simply enters the URL of any RSS feed of interest, such as http://blog.eogn.com/feed or http://blog.eogn.com/comments/feed.

Topics with a common theme can be grouped together. For example, someone interested in genealogy might put this newsletter and all their other genealogy RSS feeds together in one folder called “Genealogy,” just as they might do with email messages or even the files on their computer.

Most RSS newsreaders are available free of chage. You can find many free RSS newsreaders by starting at https://www.google.com/#q=free+rss+newsreader.

With any of these RSS newsreaders, you can read this newsletter by typing or pasting in the Web address of http://blog.eogn.com/feed. The comments posted to articles in the newsletter may be read by entering an address of http://blog.eogn.com/comments/feed into your favorite newsreader.

Your newsreader will periodically poll the newsletter to find any new articles. Whenever it finds new content, the new articles will be displayed in your RSS newsreader. All this happens in background; you can read the articles at your leisure.

RSS has effectively standardized the format for content delivery, distribution, and syndication. RSS will likely rival email as a means of content distribution in another few years. The shear simplicity makes the technology very appealing.

For more information about RSS distribution of information, start at https://www.google.com/#q=rss to find dozens of articles.

One Comment

Is there a way to increase the font size or to make it darker? For older eyes the current format is
harder to read.

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