Saturday, August 25, 2007

How to use Web Feeds? What is RSS? What is Atom?

By now, almost every netizen knows the usage of RSS Feeds. Nevertheless, there is a multitude of users who are still ignorant of the concept of Syndication and its advantages. There is nothing arduous about it. Called Really Simple Syndication most of the times, RSS is really really simple to use. You don't have to be a technical hotshot to get wind of the feeds. So why not give it a try?

What is a Web Feed?: It is better to know the answer to this question before moving further. A web feed is, according to Wikipedia, a data format used for serving users frequently updated content. Technically, a web feed is a document (often XML-based) which contains content items with web links to longer versions. News websites and blogs are common sources for web feeds, but feeds are also used to deliver structured information ranging from weather data, search results, top ten lists of hit tunes etc. The two main web feed formats are RSS and Atom.

What is the use of a Web Feed?: Suppose that you have a large number of news sites and blogs, which you like. How often do you check them? May be daily, weekly, monthly or even more than once a day, or at your will. But many a times there won't be any new articles in those sites. Isn't it a waste of time? Yes, and that is where the concept of web feed comes into picture. Instead of visiting each website, you can subscribe to the web feed they provide. Whenever there is a new article to the website, you will be notified by the feed aggregator.

What is a Feed aggregator?: A feed aggregator, also known as feed reader or feed client, is an application which regularly checks the subscribed feeds and collects any newly posted articles. An aggregator can be a software (like latest versions of Mozilla Thunderbird, Microsoft Outlook) installed on your PC or a web application (like Google Reader and BlogLines) that can be accessed anywhere in the world. There is a large number of aggregators available. The choice is yours.

How to subscribe to a Web Feed?: To subscribe to a feed, you've to give the feed URL of the website or the blog you want to subscribe to. For this blog, it is:
But what about other websites? To subscribe to a feed, just look around the website for an icon similar to:

and click on that. It is as simple as that! Latest versions of browsers like Mozilla Firefox, Internet Explorer and Safari and have built in support for web feeds. Firefox shows the RSS logo in the navigation bar itself, whenever a feed is available for the page you are viewing.

What are RSS and Atom?: RSS and Atom are, as mentioned earlier, two of the most popular web feed formats. Both are similar, with slight differences. Both are based on eXtensible Markup Language, or the XML. But the technical details behind these are unnecessary to subscribe and enjoy feeds.

Nowadays, blogging is becoming second nature to almost every Internet user. You might be having many blogger-friends. You can save a lot of time and stay up to date by subscribing to their web feeds.

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Sriram Gullapalli said...

Hi Harish, Very useful Information. Thanx for posting this article.

M G Harish said...

Thanks Sriram, for your kind words :)

The face in the crowd said...

hey nice blog.....useful to be more precise

Harish - ಹರೀಶ said...

Hey Madhura.. Thanks for dropping by.. :-)