What is RSS
RSS is a technology to easily deliver content from a content provider to a content user. The process of delivering content is also called 'syndication' and RSS can stand for "real simple syndication".
Sometimes RSS is interpreted as a "rich site summary" which is also true. RSS is used by website owners, bloggers, online merchants to provide visitors with a list of the latest news, updates, product offers, and so on.
Both content providers and content suppliers can benefit from using RSS technology. Content providers reach a wider audience and content suppliers receive fresh and targeted content with no effort.
The main beauty of RSS - is how easily content comes from providers to end-users. As soon as any update is made by a content provider it is instantly delivered via RSS to the end user. No need to go to the content provider's website, search for needed content, as it is already here.
What is an RSS feed
RSS is a technology and its objectification is an RSS feed. We can imagine an RSS feed as a conveniently structured self-updating file with fresh targeted information from a particular content provider. You can find RSS feeds when you look into a website source code. Find a link with ".rss" extension. Also, you can find RSS icons on a page that look like these:
How can you view or read content delivered via RSS feeds? You can try opening the RSS feed link in your browser. And if your browser doesn't display RSS feeds you can use special RSS readers or aggregators that can read RSS feeds. Sometimes you can hear the phrase "subscribe to RSS feed". That means that you take the RSS feed link and add it to your RSS reader or news aggregator. By the way, RSS Ground has its own decent RSS Feeds Reader:
What content is shared via RSS feeds
Most popular news agencies provide their news and stories via RSS feeds. Usually, they have not only one RSS feed but a whole collection of RSS feeds by topics or categories.
Almost every blog has its own RSS feed. The RSS feed option is a built-in feature in most blogging platforms. Practically all bloggers willingly share their latest posts via RSS feeds.
Online merchants and online marketplaces sometimes provide RSS feeds with the latest listings and affiliate products. But don't confuse RSS feeds with datafeeds.
Datafeed is another popular way to share information. But datafeeds are in a different format and are designed for machine interpretation only. They can't be read by RSS Readers and aggregators. However, there are tools that can convert datafeeds to RSS feeds and make it possible to preview them in any RSS Reader. You can try Datafeed converter from RSS Ground as an example.
One more example of sharing content via RSS feeds is media sharing services. These can be article directories, image stocks, video sharing services like YouTube, and others. Even some social networks like Facebook have an RSS feed option for their fan pages.
RSS feed structure and main elements
RSS feed is a stream of the latest updates from a content provider. Every RSS feed consists of an RSS channel and RSS items.
RSS Channel is an integral part of each RSS feed. From 'Channel title' we learn who is the content provider and from 'Channel description' we learn about the main topic of the feed.
Another element of an RSS feed is the 'RSS item'. Well, this is what it is called officially. But actually, it is a piece of information shared by the content provider. This can be a story, news, article, product offer, podcast, video, image, or anything else.
Each RSS item also has several standard elements: Title, Description, Date and Link.
Title and description will tell you what the story is about. Date will tell us when the story was published. And link will lead us to the webpage with the original content.
Depending on how the content provider prefers to deliver information in his RSS feed these elements may have a different order or even not be used at all.
Usually, all updates listed in the RSS feed are sorted chronologically, with the latest updates on the top. RSS item date will give you an idea of when was the latest update added to the RSS feed. If the RSS feed doesn't provide a timestamp then you can assume that recent updates are on the top of the list. And remember, RSS feeds are self-updating. As soon as the content provider adds an update to his website RSS feed will show almost immediately.
A very important question is 'how much content' or 'how many items' are there in each RSS feed. It all depends on the content provider and how many latest updates it wants to show. It can be 10, 20, 50, 100 or just a few RSS items.
It is a common mistake to assume that you can view all news and updates ever published by a content provider. No, only a given number of the latest news are available via RSS feeds.