Saturday, October 15, 2005

What is an RSS feed?

What is a RSS feed? In it simplest and most common form you can think of RSS as a way to subscribe to a web page. Typically you "surf" to a web page read the content and move on. An hour, a day, a week, or a month later you may return to find the same content, or the other extreme, the entire site has changed. Checking a single web page on a regular basis isn't hard and isn't that disheartening when you return to find no updates. But the WWW is full of information, information that can literally change every second. In it's fullest sense you can use a RSS feed to deliver anything that can be broken down into discrete pieces. This blog is a prime example. The Podcasts I wrote about previously are delivered via a RSS feed. To keep track of the changes without having to visit every web page by hand and look to see what has changed, you can subscribe to the RSS feed. There are many other ways to use a RSS feed. You can have it feed a list of files that have been updated. There is a site called This site maintains a collection of programs for Unix, Palm and themes. If you subscribe to the RSS feed, you will automatically be updated with the newest files added to the site. (Just their names and descriptions, you won't be pulling down the whole program.) You can even receive email via an RSS feed here. To receive an RSS feed you need a RSS reader. There are quite a few out there. There available for all OS's and platforms. You can check out a few here. My favorite is NetNewswire Lite and you can't beat the price. If you're using Firefox, Firefox has a built in reader but calls them Livefeeds, rather than RSS or XML. Not sure what's out there to subscribe to? There are quite a few sites that have lists. is very complete. Are you still not sure? Just try it. As I said, there are a lot of free software packages out there you can download to try it. Even without software, you can use your Yahoo account to monitor RSS feeds. There are even RSS feeds about RSS! And if you're reading this with Firefox you're already setup with your Livefeeds!

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