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What is RSS?

Konstantine V 28 October, 2021 | 3 min read

Intro

So you're probably wondering what RSS is and you've probably heard about it or perhaps clicked a link and see some cryptic text file of some sort in your browser. In this post I'll go over what RSS is, how to use RSS, and what makes it Superior to other options.

What Is RSS?

RSS or Really Simple Syndication is a format much like HTML that a program can easily read and display information regarding blog posts from a site, news source, or podcast and is that standard for a lot of feed reader type applications. You're probably already using RSS and you probably don't realize it as almost every podcast out there uses RSS to syndicate content across applications like Apple Podcasts or any old podcasting app out there, and same could go for many news apps on your phone as well. This mean, unlike HTML, you see all of what that site or feed shows you, there's no directories everything is instead under one file typically something like www.somesite.org/rss.xml or www.somesite.org/feed.rss.I'll go into detail later on why this is all is important and why I think is somewhat superior to typical HTML.

How Do I Read This?

RSS uses the formats XML, RSS, and Atom to display the information that the host provides, but yeah how do you go about reading that?

GUI-Based

Feedly

Outside of tech enthusiasts users of RSS typically will go with an app on their phone or on the web and the go to one for that being feedly. I'd consider feedly the most beginner friendly example of what an RSS reader can do.

Text-Based

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Emacs

Emacs can be used as a simple RSS client and is personally my prefered way to read RSS as I can easily view it without having to leave Emacs, read more on why I like Emacs so much and what makes it so great. The best feed reader in my opinion is elfeed which is easy to configure.

Another way within emacs to setup RSS feeds is via gnus, but that would require a whole article explaining how to go about that so I'll just link this video from prot to explain gnus.

Newsboat

Another way to read RSS feeds is via a simple terminal program called Newboat which a lot of Arch and non-emacs people prefer due to how lightweight and fast it is. This is preferred way to read RSS on my machines not running Emacs.

Other

If you're in doubt, search engines are your friend when looking for a feed reader that suits you. I recommend giving a few readers a shot to see what you prefer the most.

Where do I find RSS Feeds?

With a simple search you can find feeds for most of your favorite sites, for example search "world news RSS" or for specific sites like "IGN rss feed" for links to your favorite site's RSS feed.

Did you know you can subscribe to and read whole subreddits on Reddit offline? Just add .rss at the end of the subreddit url and it'll direct you to the RSS feed (ex. https://old.reddit.com/r/worldnews/.rss).

What's So Special About RSS?

You've made it this far down and you're probably just asking why would you choose RSS rather than anything else or why does it matter? So in response I've compiled a bulleted list of my top reasons for using a feed reader;

  • No ads
  • Read new article offline (download once and use whenever)
  • You get the news when you want and where you want
  • Customization of content and Filtering
  • One app or program for all your news
  • You're in control of what you consume

These are the main reason why I switched over from the ad-filled websites to the clean and customizable experience of a feed reader.

Resources

Originally published on materialfuture.net

Author's avatar
Konstantine V
A Linux sysadmin that enjoys Lisp and Emacs.

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