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What is RSS?


RSS stands for 'Really Simple Syndication'. If a website is using RSS you can subscribe and get updates whenever new content is posted.

Instead of navigating to individual websites to check whether there's new content, by subscribing to RSS feeds you can just fire up your RSS reader and view updated content from all your favourite sites. Put simply, the content comes to you, instead of you going to different websites to find it. 

RSS readers and how to use them

RSS readers come in different types, such as software on your computer, an application on your mobile phone or a website. With online readers it's easy to bookmark the address of your reader and visit it when you want to see new content. There are lots of RSS readers available that usually only require a quick registration, and many of them are free. Examples include Google Reader and Bloglines – just do a search online

You can subscribe to a limitless number of feeds in your reader and view them all together. Most websites have multiple feeds available, for example, the BIS website has feeds for News, Speeches, Consultations and Publications.

Viewing stories in an RSS reader is similar to your email inbox. Your feeds can be organised into folders – such as 'Work', 'Sport', and 'Music' – and new content will be displayed in bold, usually with its headline and an extract from the first line of text.

This is how it would look if you're subscribed to to the BIS news channel through Google Reader, and there are a number of stories you haven't read yet:

BIS content in Google Reader 

How to find RSS feeds

Look for the universal RSS logo – some websites will promote the fact that you can subscribe through RSS with this image. Most modern web browsers (Firefox, Internet Explorer 7 and above) will display available RSS feeds within the browser window and options of how to subscribe.

Video: RSS in plain English

We recommend this video from Common Craft for a plain English explanation of RSS.