What’s RSS?

RSS iconThis Jargon Buster page answers four commonly asked, related questions

  • What’s RSS?
  • And what do you mean by “Subscribe”?
  • Do I have to pay something?
  • And what’s the orange icon all about?

RSS or “Really Simple Syndication” is a term used to explain how, instead of you having to chase all over the Web to find the latest stories and news items you are interested in, you get the Web to bring them to you.

This can save you hours. I call it designing your own news service, delivered to you every day or as often as you want.

The “syndication” part of it is like when a comic strip is “syndicated”, that is, licensed to be used in newspapers all over the world. Bloggers and others who provide stories and articles online want more people to read them, so they “syndicate” them – that is, give permission for them to be read where you want to read them.

Blogs (and some other websites) have code in them to make this happen – it’s called a “feed” because it feeds the information to you that you want. How you usually know where that code is to be found is the orange (or whatever colored) icon. And sometimes words like “subscribe to my feed” or “subscribe to this blog”.

“Subscribe” just means that you get the feed and put it into a tool called a “feed reader” – most of these are free.

You can unsubscribe at any time.

There are lots of feed readers – applications to aggregate posts from your favourite sites and make it easy for you to scan a list of headlines and decide what you want to read, or not . For a while, the now defunct Google Reader was a big favourite . Some saw its demise as the beginning of the end for any practical use of RSS – or even the end of the end. Others saw it as opening opportunities for others to do the job better.  See for example the post 10 Great Google Reader Replacements.

Examples of feed readers are feedly and digg reader. I use the former, not the latter, but I have read good things about the digg reader.

feedly feed reader icon


digg reader icondigg reader


You get the feed in three easy steps:

  1. click on the orange (or whatever color) feed icon
  2. copy the code
  3. paste the code into your “feed reader”

How you copy the code can be different with different Web browsers:

  • with Mozilla Firefox or Chrome, you right-click on your mouse and when the gray menu comes up, click on “Copy Link Location”