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What is an RSS Feed? Is it still relevant for sites today?

Unlike getting website updates or ezine articles by email, an RSS Feed gives you absolute, 100% complete control over the situation. In that case, you don’t have to reveal your email address at all.

Then again, if you want to stop receiving content, you don’t have to request to be “taken off the list.” Whereby, with one click, and poof, ‘poof the subscription is gone.’ Plus, since there’s no email address involved, there’s no way a publisher can sell, rent or give away the means to contact you. Of course, that’s right!

What is an RSS Feed?

With your unique RSS Feeds, no more spam, viruses, phishing, or identity theft. And best of all, no reason to put yourself at the mercy of the publisher’s intentions.

You won’t need to suffer through the legalese in the privacy policy (if there is one) looking for loopholes that will send you deeper into inbox hell. No more setting up dummy Hotmail accounts “just in case.” Again, if you don’t like the content, you can make it disappear as fast as you can change a TV channel. With just one click. Pretty cool, huh?

What is an RSS Feed?

An RSS Feed or simply RSS stands for “Really Simple Syndication“. It is a way to easily distribute a list of headlines, update notices, and sometimes content to a wide number of people. It is used by computer programs that organize those headlines and notices for easy reading.

It’s important to note, there are various types of elements available for the RSS feeds. However, I think it’s important to explain the details of XML, XML Usage and XML Markup in that order. A programming language consists of grammar rules and its own vocabulary which is used to create computer programs.

These programs instruct the computer to perform specific tasks. But, XML does not qualify to be a programming language as it does not perform any computation or algorithms. It’s usually stored in a simple text file. And is processed by special software that is capable of interpreting XML.

What does XML stand for?

In general, XML stands for Extensible Markup Language. And in other words, it is a text-based markup language derived from Standard Generalized Markup Language (SGML).

XML allows you to add structured data to their content using tags. This form of structured data also makes it easy for search engines to understand your website. You can use structured data to indicate authors, headlines, subheadlines, lists, etc.

Characteristics of XML

In addition, XML tags identify the data and are used to store and organize the data, rather than specifying how to display it. Like HTML tags, which are used to display the data.

Although XML is not going to replace HTML in the near future, it introduces new possibilities by adopting many successful features of HTML. There are three important characteristics of XML that make it useful in a variety of systems and solutions.

The Main Characteristics of XML are: 
  • XML is extensible: It allows you to create your own self-descriptive tags, or language, that suits your application.
  • It’s a Data carrier: Meaning, XML carries the data but does not present it. Allowing you to store the data irrespective of how it will be presented.
  • It is of Public standard: − XML was developed by an organization called the World Wide Web Consortium (in short W3C) and is available as an open standard.

XML is a markup language that defines a set of rules for encoding documents in a format that is both human-readable and machine-readable.

So what exactly is a markup language?

Markup is information added to a document that enhances its meaning in certain ways, in that it identifies the parts and how they relate to each other.

More specifically, a markup language is a set of symbols that can be placed in the text of a document to demarcate and label the parts of that document. The following example shows how XML markup looks when embedded in a piece of text −

<message>
   <text>Hello, world!</text>
</message>

This snippet includes the markup symbols, or the tags such as <message>…</message> and <text>… </text>. The tags <message> and </message> mark the start and the end of the XML code fragment.

The tags <text> and </text> surround the text Hello, world!.

How is XML used?

An XML sitemap takes that same concept and combines all of that structured data into a single sitemap that will allow search engines to index your sites by simply crawling a single sitemap.

XML feeds translate the content on your blog for search engines at a more granular level. Even if new content is added to your blog, your XML feed will automatically update as well. A shortlist of XML usage says it all. Below is how XML can be used: −

  • To work behind the scene to simplify the creation of HTML documents for large web sites.
  • In information exchange between organizations and systems.
  • For offloading and reloading of databases.
  • To store and arrange the data, which can customize your data handling needs.
  • XML can easily be merged with style sheets to create almost any desired output.
  • Virtually, any type of data can be expressed as an XML document.

For your information, RSS Feeds may not be as popular as they once were, but they’re still quite relevant.

What is an RSS Feed Reader?

You may already be using a form of a feed reader, and not even realize it. For example, if you use personalized home page services like My Yahoo or My MSN, you’ve got RSS capabilities built-in. That’s how syndicated content like news, weather, and stock quotes appears on your personal page.

You can also add content from any blog or other sites that use RSS Feeds to provide blog articles, news, and updates. Other web-based tools are primarily dedicated to feed reading only. One of the most popular web-based feed readers at this point is Bloglines, and it’s also free and easy to get started with.

For more info on getting started with Bloglines, read Bloglines (and aggregators in general) from Carson McComas of WorkHappy.net. Again, if you use the Firefox browser, you can also receive RSS feeds from your toolbar. By using the Live Bookmarks function. The next version of Internet Explorer will add this feature as well.

In addition to that, there are desktop-based feed readers too. These functions somewhat like an email program for feeds. Examples include Newsgator and Feed Demon.

Related Topic: How to Manage a WordPress Multisite | Step‐by‐step guide

With social media and email subscriptions, younger Internet users get the latest updates for a specific website directly in their feed or inbox. Still, it’s important to know the basics of RSS Feeds and their advantages. Especially if you work in the tech industry.

For instance, in a recent project, we were tasked with creating RSS feeds for a website with Insights that had multiple categories and locations. With RSS feeds, we were able to create feeds that users could follow to see the latest blog posts and podcasts for a specific category.

Therefore, in the end, instead of visiting the website multiple times to find new content or search through a crowded social media timeline, RSS feeds send tailored content directly to the user.

How a WordPress Blog RSS Feeds Summary works

RSS feeds, or rich site summary, use an XML file format to translate your content through feed readers. As described above, RSS feeds take a website’s latest content and send it straight to you via email or a feed reader, like Feedburner.

For a recent project, we created RSS feeds that syndicate through Feedburner, powered by Google. People can subscribe to RSS feeds through your website. Users can click this icon, enter their information, and receive the latest content.

Based on categories, locations, or whatever filter you have in place to organize your content.

Learn also  How to create the ultimate WordPress RSS-to-Email Newsletter

In addition, Feedburner, and most feed readers keep track of who subscribes to your feeds. This data is great for marketers and content creators. If more people subscribe to blog posts about cooking as opposed to gardening, marketers know how to target audiences.

At the same time, content creators can focus on churning out relevant posts or improve content for less popular topics. Other feed readers include WordPress feeds. If your website is built in WordPress, you already have a feed reader at your disposal.

This allows you to manage your own RSS feeds and alter them the way you want. And in addition to that, Feedly and Flipsnack are among the most popular feed readers.

How do you Subscribe to an RSS Feed?

First of all, look for the subscription or feed options (some bloggers make this difficult for some odd reason). You might see a variety of buttons (amusingly called chicklets).

If the site you want to subscribe to uses FeedBurner to aid in the subscription process (like Copyblogger and many other popular sites), you’ll likely see the standard RSS icon. Above all, which takes you to a page that will give you an array of the most popular feed readers. So that you can select yours, and you’ll go from there.

Sometimes there will be a chicklet for your particular reader right on the blog. So to say, that will take you to the appropriate subscription page. And lastly, you may also see little orange buttons that say XML or RSS. Often these chicklets will take you to a page that looks like code gibberish.

In this case, you simply cut and paste the page URL from your browser window. And then manually paste it into your feed reader subscription box.

What’s next for RSS Feeds?

While RSS feeds are still in use, they’re becoming less popular with the use of social media and email subscriptions. Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn bring you the latest news from a site if you follow their profile.

The downside: you might not always catch the post in your feed on time or you have to sift through a sea of posts to find what you want. But overall, RSS feeds are still advantageous for users. Additionally, RSS feeds allow you to tailor your content so that users get exactly what they want.

And while each post category doesn’t have a specific social media profile, an RSS feed brings you that content. So that you don’t have to visit the site each day or go to the site’s main social media profile to find the content you want.

As an example, the jmexclusives team can build RSS feeds for your content as well (you can see our RSS site feed). Ensuring that users have the ability to access them through whatever means you’ll find necessary.

Here is a Complete Guide on How to Create your own Blog RSS 

Simply put, RSS Feeds are simply an Internet technology standard that allows busy people to receive updates to web-based content of interest. You might have figured that much out by now. And that’s the essence of the RSS feeds.

Whereby, you subscribe and then receive new content automatically in your feed reader like that of the jmexclusives blog feed. And in reality, RSS Feeds are being adopted at a phenomenal rate because it’s a good thing for everyone. That’s how the benefit to readers is obvious.

And it’s good for publishers too because we want to make sure that people feel comfortable subscribing. And that our message is not nuked by an overzealous spam filter. If it sounds complicated, it’s really not. And things will get even easier when the next version of Outlook integrates feed-reading capabilities.

So, you’ll have the same convenience that email subscriptions offered in the old days. Without any of the terrible consequences of giving out your email address to potentially unscrupulous characters. Do you think RSS Feeds are still worthy? Please share your thoughts in the comments section.

Finally, if there’s anything here that is confusing, or you have a question, Contact Us and we’ll be happy to help! And don’t forget to donate in order to support our online research work.

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