Really Simple Syndication (RSS) is one of the most popular forms of media delivery in the 21st century. Today, RSS is used to consume media in an organised and unimaginably large quantity. Starting from breaking news to award ceremonies to natural disaster updates – the applications of RSS are only limited by the user.
A Brief History of RSS
In its prime years, RSS was heavily promoted by the “big players” in Internet land, such as the BBC, CNN and ESPN Sports (we didn’t have very popular blogs then).
Wikipedia can tell you a lot about RSS, and I suggest you read it if you’re writing a paper. For a quick history lesson on what’s what, follow the next few paragraphs.
Although RSS stands for “Really Simple Syndication”, its origin can be traced to “Rich Site Summary”. It is a medium of syndicating a website’s content in an organized manner.
You have one source (the content producer) and multiple consumers (the readers). In mathematical terms (don’t get startled), RSS forms a one-to-many relationship between its producer and consumer.
Released in the year 1999, RSS had a huge impact on the evolution of the Internet – specifically how content was consumed. Instead of visiting each and every site to read articles, people could simply add the site’s feed into a RSS Reader software, technically known as a RSS Feed Parser.
People no longer needed to visit their favourite sites to view the latest articles. Consequentially, news sites like BBC and New York Times, heavily promoted RSS in their sites.
With RSS, you can channel your reading list into very specific lanes. This means you could read only the Finance section from NY Times, the world news from BBC and the technical columns from The Guardian. Just add the required feed to your RSS reader and you’re good to go.
To put it quite bluntly, RSS was and is one of the most popular mediums of content consumption for readers.
How RSS Works
For RSS to work, every site must use a feed generator software. Based on a set of input parameters from the site administrator, the software would generate an RSS feed from the site’s content. RSS feeds have multiple formats (discussed later), among which RSS 2.0 and Atom are popular.
The RSS feed contains some or all of the articles housed in your site. This is particularly relevant to blogs – where new content is generated every now and then. A few examples of such a scenario are – a company or personal blog, a webhosting company’s network uptime updates, news sites, the comment stream in your blog, etc. Almost all blogging platforms and software such as WordPress, BlogSpot and Tumblr support RSS feeds
Let’s not worry about how a site’s RSS feeds is generated. We assume that it’s done using the software. This process concludes the role of the content producer – the RSS feed is ready.
Now let’s turn our attention to learning how content from the RSS feed is read. First, you subscribe to the RSS feed by adding it to your RSS reader software. The software parses the content from the feed and displays it in an organized fashion for you to read.
The RSS reader software can be web based or a desktop version. Google Reader was one of the most popular RSS readers (with millions of users), but unfortunately, it closed down. This gave rise to a new generation of web based RSS readers (web-apps) with support for mobile operating systems such as Android, iOS and Windows Phone.
WordPress and RSS
WordPress loves RSS. The sheer number of RSS feeds that can be generated from your WordPress site is mind-boggling. This is made possible by an inherent support for RSS being integrated at a core level in WordPress.
All you need to do to grab the RSS feed from any WordPress site is append “/feed” to the site’s URL. So, the feed link of WP RSS Aggregator would be:
Unlimited RSS Feeds in WordPress
You can generate practically unlimited RSS feeds from your WordPress site. This (insanely vast) number depends on the number of tags, authors and categories in your WordPress site. We’ll be talking more about this in a later post – Multiple RSS Feeds in WordPress.
RSS Feed Types
Technically speaking, WordPress supports 4 major RSS feed delivery formats. Each of them can be accessed using the following URL structure:
|RSS Feed Type||Default URL Structure||Pretty Permalink Structure|
In most cases, it’s RSS 2.0. You need not worry about the type of feed you’re supposed to use. All modern RSS readers support RSS 2.0. As mentioned earlier, simply add “/feed” to the site URL and you’re good to go!
Word of Caution:
As a WordPress site administrator, you should always use pretty permalinks, as it is a good SEO practice. Your keyword should be included in the post’s URL.
Not to mention, most people will append “www.sitename.com/feed” rather than “www.sitename.com/?=rss”. If your site had pretty permalinks disabled, then the first link (“www.sitename.com/feed”) wouldn’t work – which would make you lose traffic.
The Benefits of Using RSS
Other than supercharging your content marketing strategy RSS has a lot of other advantages. Speaking from practical experience, we’ve listed some of the ways in which we’ve benefited from using RSS:
- Read Content from Multiple Websites under One Roof – RSS helps you gather content from various websites and read them using one software
- No Need to Manually Visit Websites – Tired of opening a web browser (and a new tab) for every new story? Simply add the RSS feeds to your RSS reader software and curate your very own magazine.
- Never Miss a Post – We humans are sometimes forgetful. It’s quite possible that we forget to visit one or more sites every once in a while. If we’re unlucky, we might miss an interesting article. RSS prevents this. Since RSS monitors its feeds at predefined intervals of time you will never miss a post.
- Save Time and Increase Productivity – RSS helps you save a substantial amount of time by eliminating the need to open a browser, and go article hunting.
- Offline Reading – Some RSS readers download the article (sometimes along with the images) making it available offline. Thus you can still read your articles, even if you’re unable to connect to the Internet.
Changing the Game with WP RSS Aggregator
WP RSS Aggregator was born out of Jean’s liking for RSS. As an avid blogger and WordPress developer, he wanted to find a unique way to deliver top-notch content to his readers. After a few months of hard work, our team came up with WP RSS Aggregator – a free WordPress RSS News Aggregator plugin for importing, merging and displaying RSS and Atom feeds on your WordPress site, with around 300,000 downloads.
WP RSS Aggregator allows you to display feed items from multiple sites in your blog. Simply add your favourite feeds and set the update interval. The plugin will scan all the feeds at regular intervals and add new items from the feed to your blog. More information about WP RSS Aggregator is available on our homepage.
RSS is one of the oldest, most reliable and most popular media distribution mediums available in the Internet. Some of you might wonder about RSS and duplicate content. Is it good? Is it bad? Don’t worry, we’ve got it covered.
To sum up, one of the underlying advantages of RSS is productivity. Once you start using RSS regularly, you save a lot of time!