RSS (Really Simple Syndication) allows a web site to provide a newsfeed (headlines, summaries) of their stories. This can range from an international newspaper to my humble blog, whereupon your eyes are now feasting.
Users can then subscribe to that newsfeed and hence quickly find out when new articles are added to the original site…without having to go to that site as such. An RSS reader is used to not only handle the subscriptions, but also regularly fetch and show the headlines/summaries. From there you can click on a link to read the main body of the story, if it interests you.
A benefit of such readers is that in one place you can see multiple subscriptions. So my reader allows me to quickly see the headlines and summaries from about 10 web sites; Australian IT News, two astronomy information sites, two on Australian TV news and ratings…and even one on Beatles music and news (!).
It effectively gives you the ability to create your own newspaper, albeit using other peoples articles. But it’s your paper, with topics that interest you.
In the olden days (2006, ha ha) RSS readers were separate programs you installed on your PC or Mac etc. Today Google provides one that runs within your browser and hence you can access it from anywhere. It’s called, somewhat surprisingly, Google Reader
Initially I couldn’t see much benefit for me, but gave it a second chance last week. And I have to say it’s working for me. Having the key info from many web sites in the one place is excellent. You can group similar feeds into your own ‘folders’ for ease of navigation. I’ve got Technology, Science and Music so far. It’s even made it to my Firefox Bookmarks toolbar, right there next to Digg and The Age newspaper. Both of whom, of course, provide multiple RSS feeds.