This post will discuss Really Simple Syndication, more commonly known by its abbreviations, RSS. We’ll explain what RSS is, how it works and what its main uses are for syndicating content.
What is RSS?
RSS is a web feed that enables internet users and some types of software to access website updates and other online content in a standardised format that computers can understand. When a user subscribes to an RSS feed, it lets them keep up to date with many different websites without the need to keep visiting them. This is possible through the use of a news aggregator, a tool that monitors subscribed-to websites for new content. A news aggregator, sometimes referred to as an RSS reader, can be installed on computers, smartphones and on mobile and desktop browsers.
Websites are able to use RSS feeds to syndicate regularly updated content, for instance, new blog posts, recent news, and the latest episodes of a video or audio production, e.g., a webinar, tv show or podcast.
An RSS document collates a wide range of information about the content it monitors, including the internet address, date of publication, relevant metadata and author name. It also includes the title of the content and a summary of any accompanying text. These are then combined in an XML file in standard RSS format.
The use of XML and textual formats
The standard XLM format is vital as it enables users to subscribe to lots of websites while ensuring that the information the user receives via RSS is all in a matching and easy to understand format. XML is extensively deployed across the internet for its ability to help software to exchange textual data.
While the software communicates using XML, the actual feed that the user sees and reads is provided using understandable plain text. XML is what ensures this text is formatted in the same way for each website update the user receives. That textual format includes relevant information about the content, including the title, meta description, textual summary and crucially, a link to the new content’s website address so that the user can read a post, watch a video, play music or listen to a podcast.
RSS feeds and formats
Although RSS has been around since 1999, it became highly popular in the mid-2000s when internet use was becoming more widespread. News aggregator tools are used to present subscribers with RSS feed data, in the format mentioned in the section above. The sharing of the actual web content is termed as web syndication.
An internet user is able to subscribe to an RSS feed by typing its URI (Uniform Resource Identifier) into the reader or, more commonly, by clicking on an internet browser’s feed icon. Once this happens, the RSS reader will continuously monitor the user’s feeds for new updates and these can, if enabled, be automatically downloaded.
Back in the 2000s, the predominant way to receive RSS feeds was via email. This is still possible and many people still rely on email for RSS. However, technological advances now mean that the popularity of RSS email delivery is in decline. In its place, most users prefer to find out about new content via email subscriptions, push notifications and text messages.
How websites can make use of RSS newsfeeds
If you run a website, RSS newsfeeds give you the opportunity to get your content seen by a much wider audience. People don’t simply have to visit your website to find out about your content, they can receive information about it via email, web portals and news readers. Thanks to RSS, it can also be distributed via widgets on other websites or via other types of apps. For instance, you can see these types of newsfeeds embedded into Windows, search engines and smartphone apps, or included on the pages of online magazines and newspapers, which use them to provide additional content and generate income when they are clicked on.
By letting your website be included in RSS feeds, your content can be syndicated across a wide range of channels, reaching new audiences and driving more traffic to your site. It also ensures that people who enjoy your content or find it useful can stay up to date and be reminded when you have published something new. This is why RSS feeds are so important to many big companies and brands, as well as music publishers, bloggers and podcasters.
Hopefully, from reading this post, you’ll now have a better understanding of what RSS feeds are, how they work, how they are used and the value they can bring to your website and other content. To see our comprehensive range of web hosting solutions, visit our homepage.