Introduction to RSS and Best RSS Feed Readers

What Is RSS?

RSS (Really Simple Syndication) is an addition to Internet technology that is used to keep people updated on their favorite websites. RSS works in conjunction with XML code, which continuously checks the contents of a website for updates. If updates are found, they are broadcast to all the subscribers of the website through a feed.

RSS stands for "Really Simple Syndication"--a simple way to access web feeds. If you click an RSS link, you will see XML (or eXtensible Markup Language) code in your browser.

This code, usually referred to as a "feed" (as in "news feed,") makes it possible for readers to "subscribe" to the content that is created on a particular Weblog so they no longer have to visit the blog itself to get it.

Advantages and Benefits of RSS :

RSS feeds have several advantages to the web users :

  1. You do not need to unsubscribe to stop receiving new content. You just remove the feed from your reader.
  2. Content sent to you is not dumped in a pile in your email box but organized by your RSS reader.
  3. RSS may prevent spamming or phishing as well.
  4. The RSS feeds are a condensed version of what has been updated or added to the website, allowing the visitor to take in the same information in less time.
  5. Visitors can actually get their RSS feeds on their cell phones and PDA's making the feed very convenient.

What are RSS Feeds?

It seems as if RSS feeds are taking the Internet by storm these days. Everywhere Internet surfers look, websites and weblogs (also known simply as blogs) are inviting them to subscribe to their RSS feeds.

How to subscribe to RSS Feed:

To subscribe to an RSS feed, typically all the user has to do is click on the icon and a new page will display in their browser. The user will then copy the feed URL located in their browser's URL window and paste it into their RSS feed aggregator of choice.

How to Find RSS Feeds on the Web :

Here's how to find some good RSS feeds on the web.

  1. Visit a directory of RSS feeds. Sites such as Syndic8 and 2RSS are attempting to categorize all the RSS feeds out there.
  2. Search for RSS feeds using a search engine designed to find them such as Feedfinder on Yahoo and Google both offer searches focused on RSS that can be accessed when you attempt to add content to the MyYahoo / Google Personalized Homepage of the respective sites.
  3. Check out the blogs you like to read on a regular basis. Most blogs have an RSS feed, just look for the orange RSS or XML icon.
  4. Consider subscribing to the RSS feeds from major news outlets. The New York Times and ESPN are just two of the many mainstream news sources that have RSS feeds.

What are RSS Readers?

RSS feeds are typically read by feed aggregators; downloadable programs that can check for new content from subscribed websites, interpret the broadcast feeds, and display them on the users' computer desktop.

Some of the most popular downloadable RSS feed aggregators:

Top 5 Windows RSS Feed Readers and News Aggregators :

  1. NewzCrawler : NewzCrawler is a fantastic RSS feed reader with a highly usable interface and tons of useful features and gimmicks. While NewzCrawler lets you post to blogs, its weak spot is news item relations.
  2. FeedDemon : FeedDemon is a clean and well thought-out approach to reading RSS feeds. Easy to configure and use, FeedDemon still has a very comprehensive feature set and hardly any weak spots.
  3. Omea Reader : Omea Reader makes staying up to date with RSS feeds, Usenet news and web pages a smooth experience tailored to your reading style and organizing talent with search folders, annotations, categories and workspaces.
  4. NewsGator Inbox for Outlook : NewsGator does the very right thing of integrating RSS feeds (and Usenet news) with an email client. NewsGator lets you read, archive, organize and search news with all the power of Outlook.
  5. Awasu Personal Edition : Awasu Personal Edition is an extremely feature-rich RSS feed reader. The option to enhance it with plug-ins and hooks in particular makes Awasu a powerful aggregator, in spite of some limitations.

Top 5 Mac RSS News Feed Readers / News Aggregators

  1. Shrook - Mac RSS Feed Reader : Shrook is a clever RSS feed reader that displays and organizes news in a smart (and customizable) way. It's a pity Shrook lacks tools to put news in context and that its interface relies on a wide screen.
  2. PulpFiction - Mac RSS Feed Reader : PulpFiction makes following blogs and web sites via RSS feeds as easy, comfortable and efficient as reading email (with added benefits). Filters, labels, search and persistent storage put considerable power in your hands while AppleScript and custom style sheets let you customize like crazy. It's a pity virtual folders and threading are missing from PulpFiction.
  3. NetNewsWire - Mac RSS Feed Reader : NetNewsWire is competent and flexible RSS feed reader that combines Mac elegance with smart tools that help you follow news updates efficiently. Fast search and smart folders make getting to the important updates a snap (though NetNewsWire does not plug into Spotlight) and reading news in NetNewsWire is a pleasure indeed.
  4. NewsFire - Mac RSS Feed Reader : NewsFire is an RSS reader designed with beauty and simplicity in mind. This makes NewsFire attractive, easy to use and very functional. The price you pay is in some advanced features the lack of which makes NewsFire best suited for finding, reading and then forgetting news, not for archiving and handling them.
  5. Bloglines - Mac RSS Feed Reader : Bloglines is a great, web-based way to read RSS feeds. There's no software to wrestle with, and using Bloglines is smooth and easy. You can even subscribe to searches in either your or all feeds.

Linux RSS Feed Readers / Aggregators :

  1. AmphetaDesk :AmphetaDesk is a solid aggregator of RSS feeds and displays them in a highly customizable web page.
  2. BlogBridge : BlogBridge makes it easy to discover, organize and read RSS feeds that interest you with preselected guides and suggestions based on what you like.
  3. Bloglines : Bloglines is a great, web-based way to read RSS feeds. There's no software to wrestle with, and using Bloglines is smooth and easy.
  4. Liferea : Liferea is simple and lacks more advanced features, but it offers a very clean, fast and useful approach to reading RSS feeds.
  5. NewsMonster PRO : NewsMonster PRO is a powerful RSS feed reader with versatile tools to archive, search and organize news and put them in context.

There are many other downloadable feed aggregators with varying levels of customization options and features.

Web-Based News Aggregators :

There are also web-based aggregators that allow the user to read their favorite RSS feeds online, without downloading any software to their computer. These have a few added benefits, including the ability to read feeds on any computer.

Some of the most robust and popular web-based RSS feed aggregators:

As the technology advances, more and more emphasis will be placed on ways for the Internet user to receive their favorite RSS feeds in the most simple and efficient manner possible. Look for more advances periodically, as companies offer new and improved RSS feed-related services.