Why are RSS Feeds so complicated?
Those of us in the social media business have done an awful job explaining them. We make it worse with a mishmash of terms for the exact same thing (RSS, XML, syndicate.) I think we should set an industry standard to just call them "feeds" and drop all the other terms, and use this symbol:
I had an really painful flight recently listening to a software engineer try to explain them to very nice, patient, and interested couple for 2 hours. (It didn't help he was trying to show them how it worked on his computer that was offline because we were on a plane. Grrr.)
The next day my dad asked me about them.
Here's my attempt at a clear answer to: "What are RSS Feeds?"
- Many web sites publish updates whenever they have a new post or story. This is the "feed."
- You can use a program called a "feed reader" to automatically collect all those stories so you can read them in one place. Think of it as an inbox for news.
- It's quite handy--all your favorite stories come to you, instead of you having to go check a bunch of sites all the time looking for new stories. When there's something new, it shows up in your reader automatically.
- There are also feeds for things like eBay searches or Craigslist posts. You could have your feed reader automatically track any new eBay listing for a particular item you are looking for.
- You know if a web page has a feed if you see this icon: . It might also be near the top of your browser.
- If you see these terms, they are all the same thing: RSS, XML, Syndicate This Site.
To get started:
- Get a feed reader. My favorite is the free Google Reader. http://reader.google.com/
- When you see the icon, click it to subscribe.
- Start reading.