What is RSS and how do I use it?

What is RSS?

RSS is a simple way of serving and receiving lists of links to web pages. These are often news or blog articles, but can in fact be lists of anything, especially lists that change over time. RSS is short for 'Really Simple Syndication' and web pages often contain an RSS icon or link that will contain the web address of the news feed for that page or site. News feeds are useful as they save you visiting each web site individually and having to look for any new information manually.

How to use RSS

In order to make use of RSS, you must have an RSS reader. There are a variety of free readers available, although many require you to create an account. Some of the most popular are:

Google Reader - requires a free google account. Allows you to get the latest RSS feeds (news headlines, etc) on a customised Google home page (using the feature called iGoogle). See Google's Getting Started guide| for more details

Bloglines - requires a free bloglines account. Allows you to create a customised page displaying all your RSS feeds in one place. Bloglines also includes a mobile phone version of your bloglines customised page. See the Bloglines FAQ| for more information on signing up and using Bloglines.

Outlook 2007 - Outlook 2007 contains an in-built RSS reader, which appears as a folder (similar to your inbox). See Microsoft's Add an RSS feed guide| for information on how to add RSS feeds to Outlook 2007

Recognising Feeds

Not all websites have feeds and finding the correct URL for a feed isn't always straight-forward. Some tips:

Look for this icon in the address bar or content of a web page: rss

Look out for text saying any of the following:

  • RSS
  • Feed
  • Atom
  • XML
  • Or any variation on the above!

Feed URLs:

A feed is a URL such as http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/rss

There is no standard format to a feed URL. Look out for URLs that contain "rss", "feed" & "xml".

The Centre for Learning Technology run courses on using RSS to keep up-to-date as part of their digital literacy programme|. See lse.ac.uk/training| for a list of currently available course in this and other topics.