What Is RSS?

Tech Talker explains RSS and why it’s suddenly in the news.

Eric Escobar,
June 20, 2013
Episode #081


This week I’ll be covering RSS and how you can use it.

Let’s look at your average day. You probably check your Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, and other social media sites. Once you’re done with your social media you probably move on to checking certain news sites such as news websites, blogs, Quick and Dirty tips, and all of your normal internet haunts.>

In the beginning of the internet, websites were static. Someone designed it, put up a few pictures, a slogan and some text, and would maybe update it every once in a while. Pretty much just like having a digital billboard.

As the internet grew-up and gained more users, it became much more important to update information regularly so that users would come back frequently. For many digital companies, ad revenue from website traffic and sales and brand recognition of its products are the key to survival. That’s why the goal of most every website is to gain as many views and viewers as possible. And with websites updating constantly and breaking news always happening, a user would have to visit a website frequently if they wanted to know whether or not something new had been posted.

Now, let’s say that you wanted to keep up on a handful of blogs, a few news websites, and some other sites pertaining to your specific areas of interest, such as fitness or technology. It would be pretty frustrating if you had to go to each of these websites individually to find if anything new had been posted.

What Is RSS?

That’s where RSS comes in. RSS stands for Rich Site Summary, but some people swear that it stands for Really Simple Syndication.

Regardless of the name, RSS is a way to compile multiple website updates into one place.

The user employs a program called an RSS reader to see a list of all the updates to the website. This reader can be cloud based, an app, or a desktop program. It’s a pretty neat way to view websites that update frequently.

For example, if you were to open the RSS link for the Tech Talker, you would see a list of my episodes appear in your reader, and if a new episode was published recently, it would appear in your reader immediately. What I especially like about RSS is that the reader does not download all of the information from the website. Instead, it downloads a quick summary of the update, and the title of the update. This way you can decide whether or not you want to visit the website to see a new blog post for example, or if you would rather skip it.

This digest format saves space in your reader and allows for fast updating.

Why Is RSS in the News?

RSS has been around for over a decade and I would venture to guess that many of you use RSS daily. So why is RSS suddenly popping up in the news?

The reason is because on July 1st, 2013 Google Reader will no longer be available. If you’re not familiar with Google Reader, it is one of the largest RSS reading programs out there.

Google reasoned that its reader was antiquated to how people consume news. They compare the old model to reading a paper, and the new model of news to a constant stream. In order to evolve to this new model they will be putting much more focus on their other products, such as Google+ and Google Now.

This has thrown a monkey wrench into many people’s favorite way of consuming the internet. Luckily for those of us who do use RSS, there are some new programs on the horizon that might fill the void left by the absence of Google Reader.

In next week’s episode I’ll be covering just what these new programs are, how to use them, and how to transition away from Google Reader.

With that, here are your 3 Quick and Dirty Tips about RSS:

  1. RSS or Rich Site Summary is a way to aggregate multiple websites, and their articles, all in one place by using an RSS reader.

  2. RSS cuts down on the time it would take to visit multiple websites throughout the day.

  3. Google Reader’s surprising shutdown on July 1, 2013 is forcing RSS fans to find other services to fill the void.

Well, that’s it for today! Be sure to check out all my earlier episodes at techtalker.quickanddirtytips.com. And if you have further questions about this podcast or want to make a suggestion for a future episode, post them on Facebook.com/QDTtechtalker.

Until next time, I’m the Tech Talker, keeping technology simple!

RSS image from Shutterstock