RSS for Dummies

Not that I’m calling you a dummy or anything… Perhaps just not savvy on the whole RSS thing. That’s ok… I’ve been there myself. By the time you’re done reading this, I hope you’ll understand what RSS is, why people use it, and why you should (or perhaps shouldn’t) use it.

What is RSS?
RSS stands for “Really Simple Syndication” which means absolutely nothing to you, me, or half of the RSS users out there.

An RSS feed is kinda like a very structured website that has all the content that users would want to subscribe to (News stories, blog posts, a verse or quote of the day, comments on a forum, etc.). If you were to open an RSS feed in your browser, you would see a lot of programming language mixed amongst some content that almost makes sense. The reason for this is that you’re not supposed to see an RSS feed directly. What you want is a “Feed Reader.”

What’s a feed reader?
Well, true to its name, a Feed Reader reads feeds. There are several kinds of feed readers out there, and chances are good that you’ve seen or even used one already. If you have a personalized homepage that shows you news headlines, weather, blog updates, or any other kind of content from another site, then you have used a feed reader.

There are also entire websites (like that are entirely devoted to being feed readers. All you do to set it up is register on the site (usually free), and set up which feeds you want it to read.

There are even stand-alone programs that will read feeds without you ever having to open up your browser.

Why do people use Feed Readers?
Why not just go to the website you want to read and actually read it? Again, the answer is simple. Many people have 10’s or even 100’s of sites that they read regularly, and want to remain up-to-date on (mostly news sites and blogs). Instead of going to each site, scrolling down to find out where they left off, and checking manually for any updates, they set up a feed reader to do that for them. Each time they log in to their feed reader, it will have a list of every post that has been written since they last checked.

It’s almost like having every site you want to read send you an E-mail with their newest post (except that they don’t need your E-mail address so you don’t have to worry about spam or unwanted posts).

Why should I use a feed reader?
First of all, if there are only two or three websites you keep up with, then a feed reader is not for you. It’s less hassle to just go to each website and read the info there. However, if you read more than that, perhaps you should look into signing up for a feed reader.

Feed readers are free, and offer many options so that you can completely customize your web-viewing experience. Say you have three news websites you read, but you just want to see the headlines of the 10 latest articles, so that you can click on the ones that interest you. Then say you have four personal blogs that you read to keep up with friends and family, and you want to see the whole post right there in your feed reader since you know that all the articles will interest you. All that is simple to set up in a feed reader. Then you can easily add, remove, or change preferences on any feed you want at any time.

If Anonymity is your game… then feed readers are definitely your best option. The authors can’t even tell when you add/remove their site from your feed list.

So that’s it. If you still have questions, feel free to comment on this post or E-mail me and I’ll help you out to the best of my ability.

7 Responses to “RSS for Dummies”

  1. tricia Says:

    Thanks so much. I understand more from reading your article than all the rest I’ve read – and that’s a few!

  2. Robert Collins Says:

    RSS feeds are really great because you are always updated with the latest news or blog posts.,”:

  3. Gayle Says:

    Thanks for that, I searched for “RSS for Dummies” because I couldn’t make head or tail of it all! I have an RSS button on my website and wasn’t even sure why anybody would use it! Now I do.

    Keep up the good work – more for dummies please!

  4. TJ Says:

    Nicely done….I also did a search for “RSS for Dummies” and here I am. You deftly explained the gobbledygook, just might save a few fingertips with a feeder reader, thanks!

  5. Marthe Says:

    Hi. Thanks for unscrambling my brian waves. I too searched for RSS for dummies. When all else fails. My question is about bandwidth usage and RSS. Could using RSS to upload or download (or both) make a significant difference in internet usage? The upload is images and is often updated.

  6. Leah Says:

    Easier to understand than Wikipedia. Thanks

  7. OldChineseGuy Says:

    Thanks! Great job and well written for this dummy. I am enlightened.

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