RSS - What is 'RSS'?

DSGpro/E+/Getty Images

"RSS" is about getting live web feeds directly to your computer. RSS takes the latest headlines from different websites and pushes those headlines down to your computer for quick scanning.

The acronym RSS stands for many versions of the same thing.

  • Really Simple Syndication
  • Rich Site Summary (RSS 0.91)
  • RDF Site Summary (RSS 0.9 and 1.0)
  • Real-time Simple Syndication (RSS 2.0)

In each of the above meanings, the purpose is the same: to have web sites of your choice deliver their latest news directly to your monitor.

So instead of having to visit 14 different places to get your weather, sports, favorite photos, latest gossip, or latest political debates, you just go to one screen and see it combined ("aggregated") into a single window.

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

Why You Would Use RSS:

  1. Hurricane Watch.
    If you live in "hurricane alley" of the USA, you will want to pay close attention to hurricane warnings and evacuation tips. RSS is absolutely a good tool here.
  2. News.
    To get the freshest news on your favorite celebrity, the country you are about to visit, or your favorite sports team.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  1. Reading your friends' blogs.
    If you have loved ones around the globe who do blogging, then you can have all their latest entries fed directly to your screen. This is very helpful for families when one of their own is in the military serving in Iraq or Afghanistan or Africa...a good way to read about how they are doing during their military assignment.
  1. Politics
    If you are helping a political candidate get elected, then RSS is an invaluable tool for watching popular opinion and blog postings.
  2. Jokes and Inspirational Quotes
    Add a clean laugh to your morning, or a pick-me-up quote from a famous person...RSS can do that for you.
  3. Currency Exchange Rates
    If you are planning a trip to another country, you can watch for when the best time is to buy that currency.

How it Works:

  1. Behind the scenes
    RSS headlines are really simple text files that the publishing web master submits to a special feed server. That RSS feed server, in turn, pushes the text file to the screens of its subscribers. Time lag is usually 30 seconds to 30 minutes before the subscribers see the updates. In most cases, the lag is not even noticeable.
  2. To Get Started: you choose an RSS reader tool for yourself.
    Most RSS readers are free to use and easy to learn. Here a list of the Top 10 RSS readers this spring.
  3. Setup Your Screen: you load the RSS feeds into your reader tool.
    This is achieved through multiple different ways. You can visit the web feed site directly, you can copy-paste the special code from an email, or you can load copies from your friend's RSS reader screen.
  4. Then you start reading your web feed news!
    You simply log in to your RSS reader page or start your RSS software, and you can scan all your web feeds instantly. You can arrange the RSS feeds into folders, just like email, and you can even set alerts and sounds for when a particular web feed is updated.

    Examples of RSS Readers:

    Examples of RSS Feed Sources: