In this “information age,” I’ve noticed that sometimes there’s just too much information out there. It can be difficult to track or even find. Conversely, in this “information age,” I worry that others can find my personal information a little too easily. RSS, or Really Simple Syndication, is an easy-to-use solution to assist in both of these situations. It’s one of those technological advancements that actually makes life easier.
RSS provides an easy way to keep up with the latest content of interest to you on the web. Just think about how you may have come across different websites that provide excellent or entertaining information. But in the sea of vast amounts of data on the web, it’s sometimes difficult to remember what sites you like without bookmarking them all, and if you’re like me, your favorites list has become just about unmanageable! When I later remember a website that I want to check out but didn’t bookmark, sometimes I can’t find it, or I remember too late, and what I wanted is gone. RSS can change that.
RSS also has the ability to help me protect my privacy. I am wary of providing too much of my personal information to anyone, let alone someone or something that doesn’t know me. I loathe spam, and I am tired of getting ads for products or services I wouldn’t need or even want. It’s a never-ending war, and when I like what a we site offers, I still hesitate to sign up for an email list. I always look over the sites’ privacy policies first. But I never hesitate to use RSS because I know my personal information is never shared.
So what exactly is RSS? In a simplified explanation, it’s a format of presenting information that is read by a software program called a feed reader, sometimes known as a feed aggregator. A feed reader takes RSS feeds, which are documents of information, and presents it to the user. A user can subscribe to RSS feeds from websites that give feeds, and the feed reader will automatically check these websites for updates and new information and download it for the user.
Using RSS to sign up for a “mailing list” is an excellent alternative to an email subscription or even to adding a website to your favorites or bookmarks list. Why? Well, for starters, if you like to keep your email inbox as streamlined as possible, you’ll be able to receive new information, articles, or newsletter issues without having it directed to your email. Second, you can maintain your privacy and anonymity easily. When you subscribe via RSS, you don’t give any personally identifiable information to this site or to any third party (unless the website requires it—which is rare and unnecessary). Third, you are notified each time there’s a new update to a site you’ve subscribed to; you don’t need to remember to check back. Finally, it’s very easy to unsubscribe—you’re in full control, and all it takes is a simple click of your mouse!
It’s easy to receive RSS feeds. All you need is a web browser that receives RSS feeds, like Opera or Firefox, or you can use a web-based feed reader or feed aggregator or download one of your own. With a web browser that receives RSS feeds, every time you go online, these browsers automatically check feeds on websites that you set, and they present the newest content to you. A downloaded reader works similarly to an email program like Outlook by presenting to you your subscribed feeds. Online readers work through accounts that can be logged into anywhere you have internet access. Again, your subscriptions are presented to you, this time in a web-based format like Hotmail. All you typically have to do is add your chosen websites to your feed reader’s list of sites to check.
Many websites are using RSS feeds to deliver news, stock quotes, newsletters, announcements, new products, sales, blog entries…you name it! In fact, it’s a great and easy way to download podcasts. Some RSS feeds can deliver mp3 files to your computer, and you can listen to them at anytime, or, with podcasting software, you can then upload these files to your iPod or other mp3 player and take them with you. You can listen to your favorite programs on the go!
RSS is a terrific way to keep updated with your favorite websites and web content. It’s easy to do, and it protects your personal information and can keep your email inbox a little less cluttered. To get started, just decide what’s the best choice of a feed reader for you: as part of your browser, in a web-based format, or downloaded to your personal computer. Once you’re set up, add some websites’ feeds to your reader, and you can start keeping up—instantly! Take a look at News on Feeds for a list of these three types of feed readers. You can visit their sites and work with demos to find one you like best. Once you find one, get it, read the documentation, and you’re good to go.
It is truly a “Really Simple” way to keep updated, and once you start, you’ll wonder how you lived without it!