What is RSS?

June 3, 2009 Off By Chris Hinton

RSS is a phrase you are bound to run into on the Internet, if you haven’t already. So what is it?
RSS (Really Simple Syndication) is a simple way of sharing content from frequently updated websites, like blogs, news sites, or social networks. Basically an RSS feed contains all the information needed to keep up to date with the site’s content, without the need to actually visit the site or keep checking it manually. This is usually accomplished by subscribing to the site’s feed in an RSS (or Feed) reader (like Google Reader), although some web-browsers have feed-reading capabilities built right in.
RSS is particularly useful in situations where a site is updated very frequently, or very rarely. For instance, keeping up with Lifehacker, which is updated several times a day, is much easier when I only have to log into my feed reader and I will autimatically see any new posts that have been published. Similarly, keeping an eye on my friends’ Halo 3 scores (which he doesn’t play very often) is less of a chore when I go into the same feed reader as I use for everything else and, if he has played recently, I can see it. The alternative would be to visit Lifehacker or Bungie.net on a regular basis to keep checking them out.
Many sites publish RSS feeds, from Flickr (which allows you to keep track of your contacts’ new photos), to Blogger, to this one. If you find a site you want to keep an eye on, and they publish a feed, then you really have nothing to lose by signing up for updates. The logo above is widely used as the symbol indicating an RSS feed, although this isn’t a universal standard quite yet, so keep your eyes peeled!
And speaking of RSS, if you want to receive notification of the latest posts when they appear here, you can sign up to Geek-Speak’s RSS feed too 🙂