Q: What does the RSS in the menu bar on this site mean?
A: As you surf around Web sites on the Internet (including this one), you may have noticed little buttons that say RSS on them. So now you’re wondering, “what is RSS?”
Depending on who you ask, RSS stands for Rich Site Summary or Really Simple Syndication. Basically, with RSS, big Web sites that publish a lot of content can syndicate it to other sites or notify people automatically whenever they update the site.
Instead of using e-mail to tell people new content is online and being faced with endless spam filters, blacklists, and so forth, some publishers are using RSS to give people the opportunity to read their content using an RSS reader. The content is “fed” to the readers and other Web sites, so you hear the term “RSS feed” a lot.
The concept is much like a real world “news wire” or article syndication where one article is published in many places. For example, the venerable Dear Abby column is syndicated and appears in countless newspapers.
Large content sites use RSS to republish articles or portions of articles on other Web sites. For example, the Google News site gets all its articles from many sources using RSS feeds. For online publishers, RSS is a great way to get their content seen by more people.
RSS feeds can be picked up by Web sites, but individuals can read them as well using special software. Much like a Web browser can interpret HTML code, RSS readers (sometimes called “news readers”) can display RSS feeds. So instead of signing up for a weekly newsletter, you can sign up for an RSS feed of your favorite content site or blog and whenever the new newsletter appears online, you can read it in your newsreader. You don’t have an extra e-mail message in your inbox, but you do need to get the reader software.
After you have the software, you can start subscribing to feeds. That’s what those little buttons are used for. Click the button, get the URL for the page, and put it into your feed reader. The concept is similar to bookmarking your favorite site. Then when you are ready to read the new stuff on your favorite sites, you tell the reader to find it and bring it back to you.