RSS Feed: Simple Explanation Of Its Main Functions

Let’s talk RSS and how you’re missing out on the perfect digital tool to sort out your daily digital reading habits.

I know… It’s not the freshest endorsement since apparently every single productivity app is simply the best whatever the task.

But RSS and RSS feed readers are an old-school breed of technology. You can consider them the first venture into ways to make your time spent on the Internet meaningful and fully optimized.

But what even is RSS?

Buckle up. It’s time for an introductory class.

RSS is an abbreviation that stands for Rich Site Summary and/or Really Simple Syndication. Take your pick, but basically they mean the same thing. RSS helps users follow articles, posts and other forms of writing published on multiple sites in a much more streamlined way.

What’s better?

a) Manually loading a series of sites to check for new posts

b) Check a single dashboard for new posts, which refreshes and updates automatically

RSS delivers the goods with option B. This might not sound too impressive, if you follow under five sites, but once you scale the number, the utility becomes crystal clear.

How does it work?

Using an RSS feed reader, users can subscribe to a site’s content via an RSS feed. The feed is a simple text file that keeps track of all published posts and updates with each new publication. The RSS feed reader crawls the feed and returns a new headline to its dashboard for your leisure.

In the past, you only had a title and a short excerpt and clicking on the post would redirect you to the site. Now users can read entire articles without having to leave the RSS reader at all.

Why use an RSS feed reader as part of your daily routine?

Helps you find the information you need

RSS has grown ambitious over the years in what features it delivers. Content discovery comes at the top. Different readers have a different approach to how they help users find interesting and fun new sites. The Old Reader banks on community engagement. Users can see trending articles and see what their friends are posting.

Inoreader is all about topical organization. You’ll see topics nested in topics going from the general (Top News) to the specific (News from Canada). This way you have a logical path to whatever interests you in the moment. Feedly has a similar approach in organizing around topics, but these would be industries, skills, trends and fun.

Whatever model appeals to you most always comes with some sort of search function for an extra sense of control and navigation through all the available feeds registered in a reader’s database.

Saves you time

I have to say that this is the one quality that’s the actual reason for RSS to exist in the first place. I relish in not having to remember what sites I want to read and then manually visit them. You might say, what about bookmarks? I say to that, it’s not the same thing. RSS feed readers remove so much repetitive mechanical labor on the user’s end.

Sure, it takes a second to reload a site, but what if you’re waiting impatiently for an article? It does not sound too convenient to refresh the homepage over and over again. A whole different thing to receive news automatically on your reader’s dashboard. Plus, readers now also come with push notifications so that you don’t miss out the truly important stories.

Having browser extensions is also valuable as a way to check in on subscriptions, or in the case of Inoreader subscribe to a site’s RSS feed directly through the browser.

Provides all information at one place

It starts with news sites, blogs and online publications, right. You have all your reading material in a single location. But it gets better than that. Much of the additional subscriptions options remain unchanged like subscribing to forums, categories on blogs and even comments sections.

However, RSS readers would be truly extinct, if they didn’t adapt to all the new platforms that are dominating Internet culture. Everything can be turned into a feed and now RSS readers have much needed support for Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Reddit, podcasts and newsletters. When I say you have all the information in one place, I mean it.

Now, of course there are limitations to what you can subscribe to as most free accounts are geared towards casual users and therefore are mostly limited to text-based sites and services.

You can personalize it

RSS feed readers are nothing, if not customizable.

Don’t like the bright, white backdrop? Most RSS readers have dark, gray or blue modes. You just have to look around through all the options to find the best one. Same applies to layouts. Feeder and Inoreader gives its users the choice to move from a single-column dashboard to having as many as five different columns in place to track multiple feeds and folders all at once.

Perhaps what’s most important is how you customize your dashboard. Every current RSS reader has some sort of organizational tools – stars, favorites, folders, tags. You name it. This helps you group feeds by type and then highlight the headlines that matter to you most. Most useful of all is the filter systems available in every reader but in different formats. Newsblur is known precisely for its powerful filtration.

You get your news hot off the press

As I mentioned above, you get new updates from any site directly in your dashboard without you having to manually check. This means as long as your reader is open, you receive new posts mere seconds after their publication. RSS feed readers regularly crawl RSS feeds for new updates so the sync is near instantaneous.

The only outliers would be if there are issues with the site itself or there’s no frequent publishing schedule. Even in these instances RSS feed readers can help. Inoreader for instance has a tool that can boost an RSS feed to reduce the syncing time.

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