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Ask The Pro: What are RSS feeds?

By Keith Klein | Ask the Pro

Aug 01

This month’s Pro explains RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feeds, an easy way to read news online.

At the start of my day, I make my way to the computer and read various articles. I typically use a ‘portal’ web site such as iWon.com or Yahoo.com, where I can read headlines, click on any articles I’m interested in, check out the weather forecast, and so on. That’s fine, but it takes time, and I have to sift through articles I don’t care about, or wait for graphics-heavy pages to load, or get rid of annoying pop-up ads.

RSS feeds change all that. RSS, or “Really Simple Syndication,” allows you to read news items you’re interested in, from the web sites that you choose, gathered on one place. Depending on your tastes, you can get listings of new articles from CNNFox NewsBBC News, to everything under the sun (SupermanHomepage.com, anyone?). All of these sites offer RSS ‘feeds’ (lists of new articles) that you can subscribe to and read at your leisure. A list of websites offering RSS feeds can be found at Syndic8.com.

So how do you do this? Very easily, as it turns out. If you use FireFox as your web browser, you will see a small orange box in the location bar if the site that you’re visiting offers RSS feeds. Click on it, and you can add the feed to your toolbar. From that point on, a menu of the most recent articles from that website will show in Firefox’s toolbar. The upcoming Internet Explorer 7 offers the same functionality.

But what if you aren’t using those? Then you can do it directly from a website, such as Google Reader or My Yahoo!, or with a stand-alone RSS reader such as NewsGator.

If your website has a blog, your blog’s readers can access your RSS feeds. Most blogs (including the blogs we installed on client websites) have built-in RSS capabilities. An RSS feed can be added to a website to feature current headlines from a blog or news source. The homepage of RegisterSuccess.com shows headlines from the site’s search engine-related blog. Using an RSS feed on a website is an easy way to make it look current.

In summary, RSS feeds let you read the news you want, from the sites you want, when you want it, without the clutter. If you own a website yourself, think of the service that you can offer your customers by offering your own web pages and blog entries as RSS feeds! Contact us for more details on RSS incorporation for your website.

What would you like to ask the pro? Email your questions to askthepro@OnYourMark.com!

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Web design, production, programming, hosting and Internet marketing our specialty. Hundreds of websites for manufacturers, healthcare organizations and practitioners, specialty retailers, professional services firms, realtors, builders and others. E-Commerce and Business Process Automation.

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