Many websites have links labeled "XML" or "RSS" or "Atom". All of these are ways of saying that you can find out about updates to that site without having to browse to it yourself to check.
This feature is referred to as Syndication or Aggregation, or sometimes it's just called Subscribing. On some sites, instead of a link, they'll have an orange button that says RSS or XML, and looks a lot like this: , this or my personal favorite this . That's a sign that the page you're viewing has a feed available.
So, What Do I Do Now?
We've provided a little bit of information here on how you can get easily get started reading feeds on the web for free.
Who Publishes Feeds?
Anyone that publishes on the web can publish a feed. Blogs (or weblogs) are one of the first types of sites to offer feeds.
Most major newspapers and news websites, hobbyist sites and technologically advanced retailers like Amazon.com all offer feeds.
What Do I Need?
Just like when you want to watch a video clip or listen to music on the web, you need a "player" of some kind to subscribe to feeds. The good news is, there are number of these tools available, and many of them are either totally free or free to try out.
The "player" for a feed is called a feed reader. (Or sometimes it's called a news reader or RSS reader or RSS client. All these terms mean the same thing.) This tool lets you subscribe to any feeds you want, checks automatically to see when they're updated, and then displays the updates for you as they arrive.
Feed readers come in two varieties: web-based, or as an installable program. If you use one of the web-based readers, you can access your feeds from anywhere you go, just by signing into the website that manages your feeds. If you use a feed reading program that installs on your computer, your feeds can be stored for you even if you're not connected to the Internet.
What Feed Reader Should I Use?
We don't have an official preference, but we can list some of the most popular tools our customers have told us they like.
For web-based feed readers, many people choose Bloglines or NewsGator Online, both of which are free services designed specifically for reading feeds. My Yahoo! allows you to subscribe to feeds and have them display within your custom page as well.
If you prefer a feed reading program that you can install on your computer, you can use FeedDemon, FeedReader or NewsGator for Microsoft Outlook if you're on Microsoft Windows. You can switch between these programs and the web-based reader at any time. If you're on a Macintosh running OS X, the most popular feed reader is NetNewsWire, which can also connect to the web-based services.
Mac users can also use the built-in support for feeds in the Safari web browser in OS X 10.4, and Microsoft Windows users have support for feeds in the version 7 and up of Internet Explorer. Anyone using the Mozilla Firefox web browser has support for feeds built-in, as well.
Subscribing to Feeds
Once you've got a tool to read feeds, you'll want to find some feeds worth reading. Many of the tools listed above provide some built-in feeds to get you started. Then, as you visit other sites on the web, you can keep your eyes open for links that say XML, RSS, Subscribe or Syndication, or for that orange button up above, and add the feeds you find interesting. Simply follow the routine for adding a feed to your reader. When prompted by your reader, copy & paste the address in your browser into the 'add new feed address' in your feed reader.
Naturally, we think you should check out our Corrosion Control feeds: