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What is RSS?

by Steve Kerrison on 4 July 2005, 00:00

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What is RSS?

"RSS" is a term you've probably seen floating around various sites on the Internet, but what exactly does it mean and what is it for?

RSS stands for, rather confusingly, more than one thing. It started life as "Rich Site Summary", then became "RDF Site Summary" and more recent incarnations of RSS stand for "Really Simple Syndication". Regardless of what you call it, all of the names give us a good idea of what RSS is used for.

RSS provides a means of summarising content and is used on the Internet to present summaries of web page content. One of the most commonly summarised, or syndicated pieces of content is a web site's news stories. A user can, for example, view a list of the latest news stories published on their favourite web site and perhaps even read a snippet from each story. The uses of RSS extend beyond this, often used by bloggers as a means of syndicating their blog entries, for example. You can even add graphics or multimedia through RSS to make feeds more interesting.

So now that you know what RSS is for, how do you actually use an RSS feed? There are two main ways in which you can use an RSS feed. The first way is to download and install a News Aggregator and the second is to view them within your browser, although for the second option your browser needs to have some sort of support for RSS. There are a mass of news aggregators available on the web, all with varying levels of support for the differing versions of RSS and all with their own features. Wikipedia maintains a comprehensive list of aggregators, which will hopefully help you find one that is to your liking.

FeedReader News Aggregator

HEXUS.feeds

Keeping with the times, HEXUS has introduced three RSS feeds to the site:

These feeds are tied in with the HEXUS.community, so clicking any of the links in the feeds will take you to the relevant discussion thread where you can read the stories and comments, and submit your own comments.

Adding a Livemark

If you use a News Aggregator then you probably already know how to add feeds to it. However, if you are a user of the increasingly popular Mozilla Firefox then you may not be aware of its RSS support. Here's how to add an RSS feed into Mozilla as a "Livemark".

If a page has an RSS feed associated with it, you will see the RSS logo in the bottom right of the Firefox window. Click on it and click subscribe, and you can add the Livemark to your list of bookmarks.

Subscribe to RSS feed

Sometimes you'll find an RSS icon on the page itself, like in the HEXUS.community, where you can find links to our three current RSS feeds. Adding a Livemark is still simple. Right click the icon or RSS link and click "Copy Link Location".

Copy RSS link location

Next, click the bookmarks menu along the top menu bar of Firefox, then click "Manage Bookmarks". In the bookmarks window, click "File" and then "New Livemark..."

New Livemark...

Give the new Livemark a name and paste the link you copied into the "Feed Location" field. You can also give your new Livemark a description. Click OK and it will be added to your bookmarks list.

New Livemark Properties

Livemark in action

Now that you know what RSS is and how to make use of it, I expect you'll be traversing the web in search of feeds. A great many news sites have RSS feeds with more deploying them by the day. Add to that blogs, other forms of news & media and RSS can keep you busy for most of the day.



HEXUS Forums :: 3 Comments

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This was from 7 years ago… Are the RSS feeds still relevant?
Yes. I use them every day. Must subscribe to 20 feeds.

An old thread to dig up however.
I have not dealt with RSS really since google reader went away. I just don't feel like going and finding a new type of way to make use of RSS links. They are really useful though. I used to have a website where I put up interesting news articles I would find and I would rely on RSS to help me locate worthy stories. It is just a nice way to get a whole bunch of current information in one place, assuming you have an online service or program/app to be able to utilize them.