RSS Newsfeeds Explained

NOTE: This is an article I published four years ago. The subject recently arose again and I realized that many newsletter readers are unaware of the simple way to read this newsletter, other blogs, and many other web sites that publish new articles more-or-less daily. I decided to make some additions to the original article and then republish it for the benefit of those who haven’t read the four-year-old version:

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

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 anyone using an RSS newsreader 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 mouseclick 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 within seconds 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 (the readers) want to see the articles. The articles are not “pushed out” by email or any other technology.

Readers use a special “RSS newsreader” program that pulls the desired articles from the Web to the user’s computer, where the articles sit until the user is ready to look at them. RSS newsreaders are available for Windows, Macintosh, Chromebooks, Android, Apple iOS (iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch), 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.
  5. Weed out most of the web site advertising (you may find some advertising within individual articles, however)

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 or

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 charge. You can find many free RSS newsreaders by starting at

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

NOTE: If you look at those addresses with a normal web browser, the data will be there but will look “funny.” That’s the way it is supposed to work. Those addresses are not intended to be read with a normal web browser. Instead, insert those addresses into an RSS news reader to see all the information in a logical manner.

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.

You can find dozens of RSS newsreaders. My favorite is a web-based reader called Feedly. It is free for up to a limited number of RSS newsfeeds. A “Pro Version” is also available for $5 per month, adding unlimited newsfeeds, Google keyword alerts, no advertising, premium support, and a number of other nice features.  Feedly requires no software installation in your computer, and works on Windows, Macintosh, Chromebooks, Android, Apple iOS (iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch), Linux, and probably other operating systems as well. Feedly may be found by opening a web browser and going to I might suggest you start with the free version of Feedly. You can always switch to a different RSS newsreader in the future, should you wish to do so.

For more information about RSS distribution of information, start at to find dozens of articles.


I’ve been reading this newsletter on RSS for years, as well as many other things. Currently I use Feedly to read RSS. I’m always amazed when people don’t want to use it, and would rather check a bunch of websites every week or have their inboxes filled with updates.


I’m sorry that I just was able to read this but – now what? I receive a number of emails daily concerning genealogy; how do I convert them to RSS? Do I go, site by site, and delete my request to receive the email and then request the RSS?


    —> how do I convert them to RSS? Do I go, site by site, and delete my request to receive the email and then request the RSS?

    First, get an RSS newsreader. Several are listed in the above article.

    If you are not sure which one to choose, try at . Feedly does not require any software installation in your computer and works on Windows, Macintosh, Chromebooks, Linux, Android devices, iPad, and more.

    Follow the instructions that come with Feedly. Then simply copy-and-paste RSS newsfeed addresses of the sites you wish to follow into Feedly. For instance, for this newsletter, use:


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