What is RSS?

Big RSS Icon

Whether it’s for getting daily notices about what’s on dining hall menus, subscribing to insideColby podcasts, or getting almost any other type of information, RSS-enabled Web pages allow you to subscribe to information that interests you so that you are notified when there is something new on those pages. The notification can go to a personalized Web page (in MyYahoo! or iGoogle, for example) or to a desktop program (e.g. FeedDemon [Windows] or NetNewsWire [Mac]).

RSS (Real Simple Syndication) delivers Web content—including blog entries—to subscribers who opt in through a specialized piece of software called an RSS reader or aggregator. (Some newer Web browsers and e-mail clients incorporate RSS reading capabilities, as well.) Subscribe to an RSS feed and new content added to that feed will be automatically delivered to your aggregator.

For RSS beginners, Web-based aggregators are easier to use, and they make your RSS content available from any computer that has an Internet connection and a browser. If you don’t have either a Yahoo or Google account, both are free and only take a few minutes to sign up for, and in addition to RSS feeds, they each offer dozens of other Web-based tools.

Google Reader
If you have a Google or Gmail account, you have access to Google Reader. Simply go to http://reader.google.com, login, click “Add subscription,” and enter the address of the feed, e.g., http://www.colby.edu/news/feeds/1171704.xml to subscribe to Dory Streett’s Behind the Deicision blog. The Google Reader also has tools for discovering new RSS content and getting recommendations.

If you are a Yahoo user, go to http://my.yahoo.com and login. You can add RSS feeds to your personalized home page by clicking the “Add Content” button, selecting “Add RSS Feed,” and entering the address of the feed, e.g., http://www.colby.edu/news/feeds/dining-Dana.xml to subscribe to the Dana dining menu.

There are many desktop RSS reader programs that you can install on your computer. To subscribe to a feed using a desktop program, refer to the program's help documentation. Most require you to enter a URL for the feed, which can be found by clicking on the RSS feed link on the Web page or the blog’s home page.

iTunes uses RSS to help users subscribe to feeds that contain audio or video content—e.g., podcasts. To subscribe to a Colby podcast, click on the iTunes link on the podcast home page. Once you have subscribed using iTunes, new episodes of the podcast will be automatically appear in your iTunes.

Google has a fairly comprehensive list of available news aggregators.