Many websites and blogs feature those little orange and white icons that depict beaming soundwaves – and RSS logo. But what does that logo mean?
RSS feeds are a standardized web tool that’s seen a tremendous growth in popularity alongside blogs, news websites, podcasts. And many websites feature “syndication subscription” options using RSS feeds. But when you click on the little icon and enter your information, what exactly are you signing up for? And could an RSS feed benefit your website or blog?
How an RSS Feed Works
RSS stands for “Really Simple Syndication.” An RSS feature on a website enables the webmaster or automated program to send out information in real time to a list of subscribers. RSS feeds are commonly found on blogs, news websites, forums, discussion boards and any other site that frequently updates its information. Even online magazines like Suite101 offer RSS feeds for each of its hundreds of writers and for each of the 20 basic topics that are covered on the site.
According to software developer and internet enthusiast Alan Sparks, “RSS feeds are supplied by uploaded files, saved in an XML format. These files can contain images, text or audio. The uploaded material is then syndicated, or sent out to subscribers in real time.”
How Do I View or Listen to RSS Feeds that I’ve Signed Up For?
An RSS reader program, also known as an aggregator, is required to access the information that’s beamed out over RSS feeds. The RSS reader program essentially serves as a mailbox on a computer and even some cell phones and new handheld devices. The RSS reader receives and stores all of the RSS data that’s associated with an individual’s RSS subscriptions.
An internet connection is required to receive RSS feeds. And many popular websites offer free access to RSS readers, including Yahoo!, AOL, NewsGator, and Google.
In addition, some internet browser programs include basic RSS aggregator capabilities, including Internet Explorer 7, Safari and Firefox.
The audio, video, text and images that are sent out via an RSS feed can then be viewed at the subscriber’s leisure.
Benefits of an RSS Feed for Websites and the Subscribers
There are an array of benefits associated with RSS feeds, for both the individual or website that’s distributing the material and for the subscribers.
“One major benefit from the subscriber’s standpoint is that you don’t have to go searching for information that interests you. The information comes to you, so there’s no time wasted visiting blogs, discussion forums – that sort of thing - to see if there’s new additions. If there is something new, it’s sent to you automatically, “Sparks explained.
An RSS feed is different from an e-mail subscription because the information is not sent to an e-mail inbox; it’s sent to a distinct location (the RSS aggregator), which is convenient for internet users who don’t want to stuff their e-mail accounts with extraneous messages.
The RSS feed is beneficial to the website and to the individuals syndicating material, as it provides an active method of outreach. Otherwise, it’s a matter of waiting for internet users to check back in for updates at random, and this can be frustrating and counterproductive if the material is not updated when the individual revisits a site.
“RSS feeds are beneficial for both the website and the subscribers. The website can actively reach out to the readers, and readers can save time since they won’t need to check back for updates because all updates are sent via the RSS feed as soon as they become available. RSS feeds are a win-win for everyone involved,” Sparks concluded.