What is RSS?

RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication, and is a web format used for syndication. RSS is used by news websites, weblogs and podcasting.  Web feeds provide web content or summaries of web content together with links to the full versions of the content, and other data. (Watch the “RSS in Plain English” video to the right.)

An aggregator (aka RSS feed reader) is a software program that allows the user to subscribe to RSS feeds from many websites and blogs and then aggregates all of the articles into a single interface.  The aggregator periodically reads each of the subscribed RSS feeds, automatically downloading the latest headlines, summaries, or articles.  This saves the user the time and effort of manually visiting each site regularly to check for new articles, enabling a person to monitor dozens or even hundreds of websites and blogs without having to actually visit them.

Most aggregator programs look a lot like an email program, with 3 windows.  On the left side is a narrow column containing list of all the RSS feeds to which the user is subscribed, at the top right is a list of the headlines or subject lines of all of the artices in the particular feed the user is looking at.  Each time a user clicks on the headline, a summary of that article is displayed in the 3rd window below.

Some free Windows-based aggregators include FeedReader, SharpReader, and RSS Bandit. You can also find an exhaustive list in the Google directory.

Many portals like Google and Yahoo! also offer web-based aggregators. Like web-based email systems, web-based aggregators tend to be slower and lack some of the features a their desktop counterparts have, but because there is no software to install they can be easier to set-up.

If you’re not using an aggregator (aka RSS feed reader) to read news and blogs, what are you waiting for? RSS will help you save time AND become better informed.

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