How RSS Works and Why You Should Use It

A graphic of an RSS feed icon
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Staying up to date with everything on the internet that interests you is challenging. Instead of visiting many of the same websites every day, you can instead take advantage of RSS – short for Really Simple Syndication – to gather headlines from those sites and either feed them directly to your computer or app automatically or place them at a website you view online. If you want additional information about the story behind the headline, you can always click on the headline to read more.

How It Works

Not every site publishes an RSS feed, but many do. To set up your own personal RSS feed:

  1. Get started with an RSS feed by downloading an RSS reader (also called an aggregator). Several free and commercial readers, extensions and apps are available online. Download one of these to your computer or mobile device.

  2. Go to your favorite websites and look for the RSS link. If you don't see it, type the name of the website plus "RSS" in a search engine.

  3. Copy the URL to the RSS feed for the site.

  4. Paste the RSS URL into the RSS reader you downloaded.

  5. Repeat with all the websites you visit frequently.

Sometimes, readers also make suggestions for related sites that have RSS feeds available. To use the RSS reader, you log into your RSS reader web page or start your RSS software or app, and you can scan all the web feeds instantly. You can arrange the RSS feeds into folders, just like email, and you can set alerts and sounds for when a particular web feed is updated.

Types of RSS Aggregators

You customize your RSS feed to have websites of your choice deliver their latest news directly to your screen. Instead of having to visit 15 different places to get your weather, sports, favorite photos, latest gossip or latest political debates, you just go to to the RSS aggregator and see the highlights of all those websites combined into a single window.

The RSS headlines and stories are available immediately. Once published at the source server, RSS headlines take only moments to get to your screen.

Reasons You Might Enjoy RSS

When you copy the RSS URL and paste it into your RSS reader, you are "subscribing" to the feed. It will deliver results to your RSS reader until you unsubscribe from it. There are plenty of benefits from subscribing to an RSS feed. 

  • Hurricane Watch. If you live in "hurricane alley" of the USA, you want to pay close attention to hurricane warnings and evacuation tips. RSS is absolutely a good tool here.
  • News. Get the freshest news on your favorite celebrity, the country you are about to visit or your favorite sports team.
  • Hobby interests. If you are a motorcyclist, a skier, a pottery enthusiast, or perhaps a dog trainer, hundreds of conversations and bits of hobby advice can be fed directly to your screen.
  • Photos. If you like to change your computer wallpaper daily, then RSS feeds are an excellent way to get the latest from photographers on the web.
  • Reading your friends' blogs. If you have loved ones around the globe who blog, then you can have all their latest entries fed directly to your screen. This is helpful for families when one of their relatives is in the military.
  • Politics. If you are helping a political candidate get elected, then RSS is an invaluable tool for watching popular opinion and blog postings.
  • Jokes and inspirational quotes. Add a laugh to your morning or a pick-me-up quote from a famous person.
  • Currency Exchange Rates. If you are planning a trip to another country, you can watch for the best time to buy that country's currency.

Popular RSS Readers

You may want to test several RSS readers/aggregators to see which one works best for you. There are many RSS readers that offer a free version and an upgraded version. Here are a few popular readers:

Sampling of RSS Feed Sources

There are millions of RSS feeds worldwide that you can subscribe to. Here are just a few.