What’s It All About?
RSS (Rich Site Summary or Really Simple Syndication respectively) and Atom (Atom Syndication Format) are types of web feeds allowing users and applications to access updates to online content in a standardized, computer-readable format, mostly in XML (eXtensible Markup Language). Such feeds can, for example, allow a user to keep track of many different websites in a single news aggregator.
RSS and Atom are the two main standards of web syndication. Atom was developed to avoid the limitations and flaws of RSS. Though Atom is more robust than RSS, the latter still remains a widely used standard. Just as how Xerox has become synonymous to photocopying, RSS has generally become a common term to refer to all feeds including Atom.
Many internet browsers have given up on maintaining its once integrated / built-in feed readers and interpreters considering it no longer sustainable to keep feed support in the core of their product.
This may be due to feeds probably not meshing well with the internet’s data gathering industry because such feeds allow users to consume web content (though usually not the full text of a site’s articles) without triggering the dozens or even hundreds of analytics scripts lurking on web pages. Also, the big shots in the search and social media industry that have their own mechanisms for content aggregation have a disincentive to promote RSS or Atom apps as an alternative.
That leaves you as the average user and wanna-be-feeds reader rinsed down the drain to get your daily dose of online content updates.
Subscribe To Feeds
Subscribing to a feed is rather easy and only requires a feed reader. Most browsers can – or shall we say nowadays rather could in the past – already read feeds, as can many email clients. In addition, you can download special desktop clients or apply add-ons / extensions to your browser for this purpose and some websites even provide feed reading services as well.
For WordPress sites and if prompted to enter an address for a feed, you should enter the URL of the website you wish to follow. Most readers / add-ons / extensions will most likely automatically detect the feed but if in doubt try adding “/feed/” to the end of the URL. If you do wish to use an Atom feed you can do so by further appending “/atom/” to the end of your feed address.
Here’s a list of the feeds provided by this site (copy & paste these URLs into the reader of your choice):
- Posts: https://ericroth.org/feed/
- Projects: https://ericroth.org/portfolio/feed/
- Books: https://www.goodreads.com/books/
See a live example of this site’s feeds further down below. Depending on your choice of reader, you might just get a featured image to each feed too!
The Means To Be Fed
The reader you use is entirely your call and the process of subscribing will be different for each. Here’s a list of feed readers that you can use: Comparison of Feed Aggregators
Users of Chrome and nowadays more and more other similar browsers such as Firefox and Opera will notice a “This XML file does not appear to have any style information associated with it. The document tree is shown below.” error followed by the raw feed. Or you may get a popup asking you to either safe this file or which program you wanted to use to open it with or whatever.
This is normal, as these browsers were not built (anymore) to interpret feeds. Instead, subscribe to the feed in a real feed reader (see Comparison of Feed Aggregators abvoe), or for Chrome install the RSS Subscription Extension or any Other Extension, you’ll find in their web store. For Firefox you may choose one of these Add-Ons and for Opera one of these Extensions.
As the web has become more and more crowded, it makes a lot of sense to have fresh and up to date content delivered to you, the website visitor. You may therefore want to easily utilize the information in RSS feeds to get automated web content brought to you instead you having to get it.
The beauty of RSS is that you can quickly scan headlines (titles) and read articles of interest. Because the information is condensed and provided in a single location you can generally review more information in a shorter time frame. Additional information is only a click away.
Best of all you choose the feeds you wish to see, there is no spam with RSS. If you are not completely thrilled with the content appearing in a feed simply remove it from the newsreader. The technology is a pull technology rather than push technology, meaning the content is not forced on to you. Instead, you pull the content you want to see.