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RSS and Atom Feeds

Brian Austin
Brian Austin Atom Feeds

Although billions of web pages are available on the Internet, finding the precise information you want from all of those web pages can sometimes be an especially time-consuming chore. Also: to ensure proper registrations, comply with the law, and prevent accusations of spamming, many website providers today insist on a double-opt-in procedure for website and email newsletter subscriptions.

While double-opt-in can help ensure fool-proof email registrations, it can also complicate the process of accessing the information you want.

Therefore, imagine: if you could have only the articles, news and other information you want, delivered direct to you without additional complications or hassle. That way, you don't have to visit each website and subscribe or register to receive their information. Good news! That is precisely what RSS seeks to accomplish.

Nevertheless, since this article was originally written, times have moved on, and for a while at least, for many organisations, RSS was essentially overshadowed by more popular social media options like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. 

However, with growing Blockchain use and distributed computer networks growing in popularity, who knows, we may find that RSS-type news feeds curated by artificial intelligence tools become popular in the years ahead.  

Though even without much A.I. input, with Apple's introduction of Apple News, Facebook's Instant Articles, and AMP: Accelerated Mobile Pages from Google, RSS technology still seems to have enduring appeal.

However, lets go back and explore RSS in more detail to gain a better understanding of what RSS offers.

However, we should be aware that as more and more news providers prefer to switch to paid subscription business models, RSS news feeds may become harder to find.

Although, some big names still do provide RSS, though you may need to hunt around further, search on Google, Yahoo, Bing, and DuckDuckGo, to find precise RSS news home page links.

Nevertheless, at the time of writing and updating, we can still include:

What Is RSS Really?

RSS - or Really Simple Syndication - is a technology service for sharing and distributing electronic information such as news headlines and web page updates.

Depending on who you speak to, RSS is an shortened name for several definitions; the most popular being: Really Simple Syndication, Rich Site Summary, RDF Site Summary or even the more humerous Really Stops Spam.

RSS allows you to identify the content you want to receive and have it delivered directly to you. That way, you get the latest information and website updates you want, without having to continually visit lots of websites. With RSS, in minutes, you can scan the latest updates on many websites from within your RSS Reader.

Also, even in 2018, website owners who set up their pages to broadcast in RSS in addition to standard web page formats, can have their news and information sent automatically to visitors, subscribers and members, easily, quickly, simply and reliably.

RSS-delivered information usually gets delivered without problems from Internet Service Providers, spa*m filters, and so on. So for website owners especially, a little set-up and forward planning with RSS, allows instant publishing and distribution of website content.

What About Atom?

Although RSS has evolved into different flavors or versions. Atom is a similar format to RSS that previously, was much favored by Google.

To read either RSS or Atom feeds, we don't need to know the details, just how to access and make use of them.

However, if you want to discover more about the RSS and Atom specifications, check out:

How Do I Use RSS or Atom Feeds?

To start accessing websites that provide content in RSS and Atom, usually, you'll need an RSS / Atom-enabled web browser - such as the later versions from Microsoft, Google Chrome, Firefox, Opera, or Safari, or RSS Reader software - also sometimes referred to as an aggregator.

An RSS Reader allows you to collect and monitor your RSS feeds from a single location and save feeds to your PC.

A variety of different RSS / Atom Readers are available. Some come as separate downloadable software applications that you install like any other.

Others you can access online. Others can be installed as add-ons or plug-ins to an existing software product. The latest mainstream web browsers come with the commands to select RSS feeds for you already built in to the browser.

Once you have an RSS Reader or RSS-enabled web browser, to start using RSS, you need only display and subscribe to the specific RSS feeds you want. Many RSS Readers provide a list of existing RSS feeds from which you can choose.

A website that provides its information in RSS, displays the RSS, or XML, or Atom feed buttons.

XML is the format used for distributing website news headlines around the Web, also known as Syndication.

Often, the RSS or Atom XML buttons are shown in the characteristic orange and blue colors. For example:

RSS XML feed button

Atom feed button

You can subscribe to an RSS or Atom feed in several ways. For example, you can:

  • Click the RSS button for the feed you want, or
  • Drag the web address / URL of the RSS feed you want into your RSS Reader, or
  • Cut and paste the same web address / URL into your Reader.

Note : if you're still using a plug-in for Microsoft Outlook, like the old NewsGator, to subscribe to a feed, you need only right-click the RSS button from the floating menu that appears, then choose the command "Subscribe in NewsGator".

Finding a Suitable RSS / Atom Reader?

At the time of writing, many different RSS Readers are already available and new versions appear regularly. Most can read both RSS and Atom formats.

Note: make sure that the RSS Reader you choose is designed for your computer's operating system.

Here's a few popular RSS news reader sources:

Some can be used only on Micr Windows operating system, others have apps for Apple Mac, Apple Ipad, and more:

Key tip: today, many providers combine RSS with social media solutions to offer additional benefits to their users. More likely, an RSS service will have been completed replaced by a social media structure to help encourage more interaction, collaboration, sharing, personal involvement.

Editor update: at the time of writing, an especially easy-to-use and exciting RSS / Atom feed newsreader could still be found at: SharpReader - well worth a closer look if you like interacting with RSS news feeds.