RSS Newsfeeds Explained

NOTE: This is an article I published five 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. In addition, the RSS technology and business offerings have matured a bit in the past five years so there is now more information available than there was when this article was first written. I decided to make some additions to the original article and then republish it for the benefit of those who are not familiar with the advantages of RSS:

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” information to those who ask for it.

NOTE: 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. For those who are less technical, the article you are reading at this moment will hopefully suffice.

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. Even better, users can “subscribe” to RSS news feeds to quickly and easily find all newly-published articles. Best of all, anyone can instantly “unsubscribe” from the RSS news feeds that perhaps are no longer of interest. With RSS, there is no need to go to some web site, remember a user name and password, log in, find the unsubscribe button, or to ask anyone to unsubscribe for you. The end user can easily unsubscribe from any RSS news feed within 5 or 10 seconds with no assistance needed.

These factors make it equally attractive to those who read online information. Thousands of commercial web sites and blogs publish content summaries in RSS feeds, including EOGN.com. 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 individual 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 news feeds.

RSS 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 or web site 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), Linux, and probably for other computers as well. In addition, cloud-based RSS newsreaders are available on a number of web sites. Web site RSS news readers do not require any software installation; to use them all you need is a web browser. As a result, web site RSS news readers work equally well on all modern web browsers in all computers with no software installation required.

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. Click on a link to read full (uncondensed) articles.
  4. Classify and categorize information in an easy-to-navigate manner.
  5. Maximize their time without having to deal with spam.
  6. 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 web address (URL) of any RSS feed of interest, such as https://blog.eogn.com/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 charge. You can find many free RSS newsreaders by starting at https://duckduckgo.com/?q=free+rss+newsreader&t=hp&ia=web. With any of these RSS newsreaders, you can read this newsletter by typing or pasting in the Web address of https://blog.eogn.com/feed. The comments posted to articles in the newsletter may be read by entering an address of https://blog.eogn.com/comments/feed 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. RSS addresses are not intended to be read by a human who is using a normal web browser. Instead, insert those addresses into an RSS news reader to see all the information displayed in a logical and easy-to-read manner.

If you leave your news reader running, it will periodically poll the newsletter to find any new articles.  However, I suspect most RSS users simply load the program or go to the RSS news reader web site whenever they want to read the latest 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 rivals and improves on email as a means of content distribution.

The shear simplicity of RSS news feeds 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.  If you are interested in Feedly, I suggest you first sign up for the free version. You can always upgrade later, should you wish to do so. I suspect that many Feedly users never upgrade as the free version may meet their needs.

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 http://www.feedly.com.

You can always switch to a different RSS newsreader in the future, should you wish to do so. Of course, Feedly isn’t the only RSS news reader available. You might prefer a different app to read the latest news. If so, take a look at the 34 Best news readers as of 2019 in the Slant web site at https://www.slant.co/topics/446/~best-news-readers.

Whatever RSS news reader you choose, I suspect you will find the use of an RSS news reader to be faster, easier, and more efficient than whatever you are using today to read frequently-updated web sites.

2 Comments

Question – once the RSS feed starts can we then unsubscribe to the Newsletter so we don’t get duplication?

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