RSS (most commonly expanded as Really Simple Syndication) is a family of web feed formats used to publish frequently updated works—such as blog entries, news headlines, audio, and video—in a standardized format.  An RSS document (which is called a "feed", "web feed", or "channel") includes full or summarized text, plus metadata such as publishing dates and authorship. Web feeds benefit publishers by letting them syndicate content automatically. They benefit readers who want to subscribe to timely updates from favored websites or to aggregate feeds from many sites into one place.

RSS feeds can be read using software called an "RSS reader", "feed reader", or "aggregator", which can be web-based, desktop-based, or mobile-device-based. A standardized XML file format allows the information to be published once and viewed by many different programs. The user subscribes to a feed by entering into the reader the feed's URL or by clicking a feed icon in a web browser that initiates the subscription process. The RSS reader checks the user's subscribed feeds regularly for new work, downloads any updates that it finds, and provides a user interface to monitor and read the feeds. RSS allows users to avoid manually inspecting all of the websites they are interested in, and instead subscribe to websites so that all new content is pushed onto their browsers when it becomes available.

Where can I get an RSS reader?

RSS readers are available as web-based, desktop-based, or mobile-device-based applications.  

Web-Based Readers:

Web-based readers are offered by thousands of companies worldwide, but two of the most commonly used are Google Reader and My Yahoo (which allows you to add RSS feeds into your Yahoo News on your home page).  For both of these, all you need is a Google or Yahoo account, respectively.

For more information about Google Reader, click 
here.  Or watch a video demo on how to get started with Google Reader by clicking here.

For more information about My Yahoo, click here.

Many web browsers offer quick and easy ways to access RSS feeds you have subscribed to as well.  Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, and Firefox all offer some way to view RSS feeds directly from the browser.  Check out the links below for more information on how to use your browser as an RSS reader. 

Internet Explorer 7 and 8 both have a Feeds icon in the Favorites Bar.

Firefox utilizes what they refer to as  “Live Bookmarks” for RSS ready websites.  Below is a link with more information.

Firefox also offers many browser add-ons that can serve many purposes related to RSS feeds.  Click the link below to be taken to the Firefox add-ons page.  Type “RSS” into the search bar to find the latest and greatest “RSS” add-ons for Firefox 3 and Firefox 4.

Google Chrome does not have any out-of-the-box RSS reader feature as part of their browser.  They do have several easy-to-use RSS extensions for the browser, much like Firefox has “Add-Ons”.  Your best bet if you use Google Chrome is to have a Google Reader account.  You can then install the official Google Reader Notifier extension which adds an icon to your browser.  The icon lets you see your unread count, preview items, or open Google Reader with one click.  

There are several other extension options for RSS feeds at the Google Chrome Extensions page.  Below is a link to the Google Chrome extensions page.  Type “RSS” into the search bar for many useful RSS extensions that can be easily added to Google Chrome.


Desktop-Based Readers:

One of the most commonly used desktop-based RSS readers is FeedDemon.  It is simple and easy to use, and integrates easily with any Google Reader account.  This application can only be run on your workstation as a standalone program and requires an internet connection to function.

There are several other desktop-based readers as well, some of which require payment.  If you are interested in a more powerful reader, try NewzCrawler.  They have a free trial download available, which you can then upgrade to the full version for a fee.  

Mobile-Based Readers:

RSS reader applications, or "Apps" as they are commonly called in the smart-phone world, can be downloaded on nearly any mobile phone with a data connection.  HTC, iPhone, Blackberry, LG, Motorola, etc. all have ways to access RSS feeds.  The most basic way would be to have something like a Google Reader or My Yahoo account that you browse to directly from your phone's web browser.  

However, there are also several other popular Apps that work as RSS Readers.  Check your phone's App Store, Market, etc for RSS applications that may work with your phone.  Many of them are compatible with Google Reader and My Yahoo accounts as well.

Can I automatically have feeds sent to my email?

This is a commonly asked question, but it does not have a simple answer.  RSS feeds are not designed to be email messages because of the code they are written in.  There are programs out there that can do this, but most of them are produced by smaller companies and are much more complicated than just using a reader.  Many of the big reader programs will allow you forward an RSS feed to your email address, but they will not do this automatically.

Another reason for this is because of the amount of clutter it would cause to your inbox.  If you subscribe to any major news feeds, such as Associated Press, you could literally get hundreds of feeds a day sent to your inbox.  The best way to track your feeds is simply to use one of the larger, more commonly used reader applications.  If you want RSS feeds on the go, try to find an app for your phone, or use your phone's web browser to open your web-based reader of choice.

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