What are RSS feeds?
It is difficult to establish when your most visited sites have been updated without visiting each one and checking. Computers are able to tell when a site has been updated by using an RSS feed.
They bring you the latest information, news and updates on the sites that you frequently use without having to actually visit them.
RSS feeds usually consist of a number of titles and short summaries of full content on the website that the feed came from. You can quickly scan the summaries and tell if you want to click through and visit the full version on the website. Your computer will also let you know when a new RSS feed is available.
Essentially, an RSS feed is a summary of the latest content on a website so that you can see whether there is anything new or interesting available.
What can I do with RSS feeds?
Once you have found the feed that you wish to subscribe to, you will need to group them together and display them in an easy to read way.
There are a number of possibilities, but they usually offer a way of:
- subscribing to RSS feeds
- displaying the RSS feeds
- telling you which RSS feeds have new content in them
A number of downloadable programs (called 'desktop readers') enable you to use RSS feeds and some websites (called 'web-based readers') and even some web browsers will read and present them too.
Google has a free, web-based reader called Google Reader that we would recommend to use for subscribing to and displaying RSS feeds.
How do I use RSS feeds?
1. Choose (and install) the feed reader you want to use or sign-up to a web-based reader.
2. Subscribe to the feed. This works differently for different readers, but generally you should be able to click on the orange RSS icon on the website itself or in the web browser's address bar.
3. You will need to regularly check your feed reader for any new content.
4. When you read an interesting summary in your RSS reader that you want to know more about, click the title in the reader to go straight to the page in your web browser.