What is RSS and why is it still important?

Talking about RSS? Isn’t it a bit redundant to mention a protocol that many have forgotten?

I beg to disagree. As long as people have to go through massive volumes of information, I will advocate for RSS and remind just how easier life can be with an RSS reader in your toolkit.

What is RSS?

RSS is a protocol for syndication of articles and posts on blogs and other websites. It’s in the name – ‘rich site summary’ or ‘really simple syndication’. The main function RSS performs is to make it easier for Internet users to receive content from sites they value. Rather than have to visit a site to check for new articles, a feed automatically refreshes with new publications as soon as they’re posted. RSS relies on minimalism, convenience and automation.   

How does RSS work?

RSS feeds are not legible at the user’s end as a feed is coded in XML – a simple coding language, which translates a site’s content into a format that RSS feed readers can understand. The XML code is included into the HTML code of a website and features two major components. These are the channel element itself (remains unchanged) and then item elements for each new article (created automatically upon publication of a new post).  

Is RSS still relevant?

There’s no straightforward answer to this question, because RSS has never truly left the premises. As with all technological innovations, RSS reached its peak during the early 00s and then quietly faded into the background to be appropriated into the core nature of Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Instagram, where you source new updates from different users, channels and pages. RSS still exists in news aggregation sites and weather updates. So the principles have remained intact.

RSS readers have not been as fortunate, but there’s still a place for them. Hardcore fans have never stopped using them even when Google killed their popular RSS reader and Mozilla dropped RSS support altogether.  

How does RSS feed readers work?

RSS feed readers crawl websites looking for XML scripts and use that information to syndicate a site’s content onto a single location. Users source information from multiple sites in a single central feed accessed by the RSS reader. Feed readers present only a snippet of articles with few to no multimedia elements, which quickens the pace at which users can browse content. Updates usually contain a title, a link to the source and either the first paragraph of an article or a summary text. 

How can you utilize RSS?

RSS improves any area in your digital life it touches, and that’s the key to its longevity. RSS feed readers are wonderfully versatile tools. With a little bit of imagination, you can completely change the daily processes at your job and your personal life for the better! 

Boost your productivity

Before anything – RSS is a productivity tool. It was designed to simplify how Internet users read a lot of websites at once and has survived for over two decades, because the volume of articles and information hasn’t really decreased. On the contrary. You’ve probably had those days, when you log onto work and just do a quick browse through job-related sites only to find that it’s noon…

It’s a common occurrence in information-dense jobs and RSS trims away a huge chunk of time you spend on research tasks.  

Manage your email inbox

Clean inbox equals a calm mind. I have yet to encounter anything more stress-inducing than an inbox, which has been abandoned to accumulate unread emails by the hundreds. If you subscribe to a lot of newsletters, RSS is a quick way to bring order by moving your subscriptions to a feed reader. Not only are you able to access newsletters in a much more user-friendly way, but your inbox will thank you for it. 

Discover content

It’s a primitive view to look at RSS readers as only receptacles of syndicated feeds, when they’re much more powerful in their current generation. Most new models have their own search bar. Inoreader also has implemented the Sort by Magic function, which presents readers with new content based on reading habits and interests. 

Get all your news at one place

News aggregation is already a fact. Google News pulls together all the latest news titles of note in a single interface. RSS builds on this functionality through the inclusion of curation. Not only are you able to select which news sites you want to follow, but you can subscribe to a specific topic of interest. This way your news feed sources only sites you trust on subjects you want. RSS feed readers boast multiple filtering options. Inoreader, for instance, filters content by author as well. 

Optimize your business efforts

As a site owner, you’re fighting for readers’ attention and working towards a loyal readership. RSS gives you the opportunity to target those readers who want nothing more than to receive content in a smart way. RSS readers do have social media sharing capabilities, so you can still rely on your readers to spread your articles and news around the world. In addition, there are aggregator sites, which syndicate posts from many websites. You can use RSS feeds for SEO purposes by feeding your content to bigger platforms. 

The future of RSS

Perhaps most telling is the shift in trajectory for RSS. Most new RSS readers have moved away from the browser-format and have adapted to the new mobile ecosystem. RSS readers are now on phones and tablets. Fewer websites support RSS and make it available to subscribe, but there are those RSS readers like Inoreader, which circumvent this as well. 

RSS is incredibly resilient and at the core of YouTube subscription and social media feeds. Though specialization rises as the next evolutionary step for the protocol, modern RSS readers allow users to syndicate content from different platforms like podcasts and Twitter.