Get Off Your RSS!

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Did you ever look at the daily reads list from a well-written Weblog? Some of those lists are insanely long, often containing more sites than most people read in a month! The crazy thing? When you read these Weblogs, you see their authors reacting and debating with many other Weblogs and sites. How do people keep track of it all? How can anyone manage to hold down a job while still checking so many sites so frequently?

They aggregate.

Most Weblogs (including the SitePoint Weblogs), publish content through RSS as well as HTML. Unlike HTML, which defines document layout, RSS merely records raw documents in XML. Software can then download the RSS feed and format it as needed. Thus, RSS provides:

  1. an easy way to syndicate content to other sites

  2. a layout-independent way of serving content

Sites like SitePoint use it for more than Weblogs. Even the main articles are syndicated. New and interesting uses for RSS are constantly popping up from traditional publications like the BBC, Wired Magazine, and Yahoo! News, to other information sources, like the State of California’s Emergency Digital Information Service.

RSS aggregators will download the latest RSS feed from the sites you specify, displaying the latest articles, postings, and news items. Here’s the cool part: by listing all the articles from all the sites in one place, aggregators free you to read or reject articles quickly. Normally, you might load a site only to find that there are no new postings. With an aggregator, you see the new postings as they come up.

Many aggregators will also list comments attached to main news items and blog posts. When you start browsing the world in RSS, your whole way of using the Web changes. Instead of pages and search engines, the Web becomes a world of interconnected ideas, a sphere of discussion linked in real, meaningful ways.

Here’s a quick rundown of popular RSS aggregating software.

Desktop Aggregators

If you want to keep track of many Weblogs at once without having to open a million browser windows, then you need one of these tools.


SharpReader is a great, free RSS tool that will display your favorite news and blogs in a variety of layouts, including a nifty threaded view for discussions. If you run a blog yourself, you can even install a WYSIWYG blog editor plugin. The editor works with blogger- and metaWeblog-compatible software.

Spend your life in Outlook? News Gator might be just the thing for you, but it’ll cost you a few dollars. This tool integrates RSS feeds into Outlook.


If you’re a Mac enthusiast, you have several options. MulleNewz will give you easy access to news feeds from the Dock. Others swear by the winner of the OS X Innovator of the year (2003) award, NetNewsWire, a commercial RSS/Weblog tool, or its freeware baby brother, NetNewsWire Lite.

If you want an Open Source solution on OSX, read the section below on browser-based readers.


Numerous RSS aggregators run on GNU/Linux, but Straw wins easily. Keeping track of recent postings is easy with its simple, powerful, email-like interface.

Mobile Phones

If you’re so addicted you need to read RSS articles on the go, check to see if your phone will run MobileRSS. Don’t have the latest phone? Well, maybe that’s a good thing…

Blogging Tools

Participating in the Weblog world is twice as much fun as reading. These tools combine Website editing features with RSS newsreading:

Radio FM provides a great Windows application for editing your blog and reading newsfeeds. Simple, fast, and convenient, it’s worth the money.

If you’re looking for an open source equivalent, try Python Desktop Server, a Radio Userland clone with a Web interface.

Tinderbox, a great OS X hypertext/blogging tool, includes an RSS aggregator. In Tinderbox, you can connect RSS documents with your notes, TODOs, flowcharts, and blog postings.

Browser Based

If you don’t want to install a new application or clutter your desktop with yet more windows, try one of these browser plugins:

News Monster is a fabulous RSS tool for Mozilla. This cross-platform tool does everything you’d expect, and more! The Monster tightly integrates with Mozilla, and it can track postings and discussion threads. News Monster will even help you find new Weblogs by finding out what blogs are read by the authors you read.

An RSS Reader Panel also exists for Mozilla’s lightweight Firefox browser. Rather than implement a new dialog, this nifty plugin works within the bookmarks toolbar, creating an automatically-updating set of bookmarks to new articles.

Web Based

If you jump from computer to computer, or you want to synchronize your newsfeed reading between home and work, installing a Web-based RSS reader is the best way to go.

Feed on Feeds is an easy-to-install PHP script that should work on most Web servers. Simple, but in a good way.

Amphetadesk is a more sophisticated, cross-platform Perl solution that includes a built-in Web server for those without Web hosting.

Integrating Into Your Site

If you want to include an RSS aggregator in your Website or Web application, check out these articles on SitePoint:


To enter the world of RSS is start reading content again. Aggregators provide a great way to keep in touch with what’s going on without losing touch with the real world. Enjoy!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about RSS Feeds

What is the relevance of RSS feeds in today’s digital age?

RSS feeds remain relevant in today’s digital age because they provide a convenient way for users to stay updated with their favorite websites without having to visit each one individually. They aggregate updates from various sites into one place, making it easier for users to consume content. RSS feeds also allow users to customize their content consumption, choosing only the sites or topics they are interested in.

How can I find the RSS feed URL of a website?

To find the RSS feed URL of a website, you can check the source code of the website. Right-click on the webpage and select “View Page Source” or “Inspect Element”. Then, use the “Find” function (Ctrl+F or Command+F) to search for “RSS”. The URL of the RSS feed should be nearby.

Can I combine multiple RSS feeds into one?

Yes, you can combine multiple RSS feeds into one. There are several online tools and services that allow you to do this. These tools aggregate content from multiple RSS feeds and generate a single feed that you can subscribe to.

Is RSS dead?

No, RSS is not dead. While it may not be as popular as it once was, many people still use RSS feeds to stay updated with their favorite websites. It’s a convenient way to aggregate content from multiple sources into one place.

How can I merge multiple RSS feeds?

To merge multiple RSS feeds, you can use an online RSS feed aggregator. These tools allow you to input the URLs of the RSS feeds you want to merge, and they will generate a single feed that includes updates from all the input feeds.

What are some recommended tools for managing RSS feeds?

There are several tools available for managing RSS feeds. Some popular ones include Feedly, Inoreader, and The Old Reader. These tools allow you to subscribe to, organize, and read RSS feeds from various sources.

Can I customize the content I receive through RSS feeds?

Yes, you can customize the content you receive through RSS feeds. Most RSS feed readers allow you to choose which feeds you subscribe to, so you can curate the content to match your interests.

How often do RSS feeds update?

The frequency of RSS feed updates depends on the website. Some sites update their feeds every time new content is published, while others may update their feeds at set intervals, such as once a day or once a week.

Can I use RSS feeds on my mobile device?

Yes, you can use RSS feeds on your mobile device. There are several RSS feed reader apps available for both iOS and Android devices.

Are there any privacy concerns with using RSS feeds?

RSS feeds are generally safe to use. However, like any online service, they can be a target for hackers. It’s important to use a trusted RSS feed reader and to be cautious of subscribing to feeds from unknown sources.

Nathan MatiasNathan Matias
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Nathan, also known as The Rubber Paw, programmed his first game of Pong in 1994. A web professional since 1998, Nathan likes tech writing so much, he's studying English at Elizabethtown College.

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