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What is RSS? Should I use it? and How?

The actual meaning of RSS is continually debated, but most will agree that “Really Simple Syndication” is a good way of describing RSS. If you think about television newscasts that have those rolling tickers of news items scrolling across the bottom of your screen, RSS is pretty much the same thing for the internet. This has become a ubiquitous technology for distilling content to its essence and providing it to those who want to read it.

How it works

RSS takes advantage of a file format called XML which allows content to be continuously updated through this file and broadcast to all sources who request it. To use the television example, it’s like a broadcast feed being sent to the world, and whoever picks up the feed can view it (using their TV receivers).

There are many ways to use an RSS feed and I’ll describe two of the main ones.

1. Easier, quicker, more accessible way to read the news that matters to you.

You can use Outlook, Explorer, Personalized homepages, and specialized RSS “readers” to pick up these RSS feeds. After choosing the feeds you want to read and adding them to your preferred method of reading, you will start receiving updates as they are made. Ironically you can get an RSS feed of a particular stock just like a ticker, but it’s so much more than that.

2. Provide your news, company articles or any kind of updates to your audience

If your company has a newsletter, or regular email list or maybe even a blog, you can use RSS to allow your customers, visitors, suppliers, and whomever else to stay up to date with whatever information you want to disseminate. This blog has an RSS feed (click here), I’ve created an RSS feed of some articles on our custom ribbon site by using a social bookmarking website called Delicious, (but i’ll talk about that another time). Here, here, here and here (PrintMyRibbon).

Oh Yeah, if you ever see this icon:

RSS Feed Icon

this means the website you’re on has an RSS feed available to you. If you feel like reading more…here is an article that lists a lot of ways to use RSS and has links to the downloads, sites, and other articles that they refer to. (Mashable – The Ultimate RSS Toolbox…)

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