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How to Use RSS

What is RSS?

"RSS," which stands for "rich site summary" or "really simple syndication," is a new technology that can be used to inform Web users when their favorite Web sites have added new content. You can get the latest headlines the moment they are published, without having to visit the Web sites in question. It is also a way of getting very focused content, customized according to your interests.

Many organizations such as the New York Times, BBC News, Google—and now Columbia News—offer RSS feeds. As RSS becomes more widely used, it is showing up on mobile devices, in e-mail applications and in customized portal content like My Yahoo!.

RSS news feeds typically consist of a list of headlines accompanied by short descriptions linked to full-length stories on the Web. For example:

Example of an RSS reader


How do I set it up on my computer?

To take advantage of RSS, you need a special program (or service) for reading feeds. There are many such programs, both free and commercial. (The above example uses NetNewsWire Lite.) Here are a few news readers we recommend; a search on the Web for "RSS Reader" will turn up many more:

NetNewsWire/NetNewsWire Lite
Mac OSX news reader features a simple, clean layout. The Lite version is free.

This Windows product was designed by the same company that created NetNewsWire.

My Yahoo!

Certain Web browsers—Mozilla, Firefox and Safari—offer the further option of creating a live bookmark, a feature that will soon be supported by every major browser.

Links to RSS feeds are usually identified by a small orange button that reads either "RSS" or "XML." Depending on the browser, a user clicking on this button will see either a list of headlines and short blurbs, or a page full of code (which can be ignored).

To add the feed to your RSS reader, copy the Web address of the link, go into your news reader application, and create a new subscription by pasting in the address for the feed.

If your browser supports RSS, check the specifications or help menus for how to add RSS to your bookmarks or favorites, or how to read a feed in your browser. Most browsers use some kind of clickable RSS icon to indicate when a feed is available for the site in question. For example, in Mozilla Firefox, a user can create a live bookmark by clicking on the icon in the location bar at the top of the browser window that looks like this:  RSS

Related Links
Introductory RSS Information From the BBC
More on RSS feeds from CNET
Overview of RSS specifications

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