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Tue, May 6th - 12:33PM

Use RSS Feeds to Stay Updated
The Standard RSS Feed IconHave you ever wondered what in the world that little orange box with the arches means? More and more often, you've seen it appearing next to the URL in your Web browser. Some sites have it, others don't. If you see that icon, it means that URL contains an RSS feed.

What is an RSS feed?
RSS is the initials for "Really Simple Syndication."* If you're even remotely in tune with the world of journalistic writing, you know syndication is huge. It means your content is being distributed throughout a wide network of readers.

In essence, you can think of an RSS feed as a subscription to a magazine or newspaper. If you subscribe, you will receive the update directly into the reader of your choice. It's basically a way for you to create your own custom magazine, filled with the articles and notifications of your choice.

This unique RSS icon from Smashing Magazine aptly sums up the function of an RSS feed:

How do you use an RSS feed?
Using RSS feeds is, as its name implies, exceedingly simple. The only thing you need is some sort of RSS reader. You can think of a reader as the virtual paper on which your articles and notifications are printed. RSS readers are popping up all over the net.

Perhaps, the most commonly used is Google Reader. If you have an iGoogle account, you already have the reader. All you have to do is add some feeds. Of course, the Google Reader is only one such tool available to you.

For those of you who would prefer not to have to keep checking back to see if anything new has been posted, Firefox and Internet Explorer both have some form of reader built into them. Anytime one of your subscriptions is updated, you will see a notification in your browser's toolbar.

And in case those aren't enough options for you, most of the free email services like Yahoo!, Hotmail, and GMail all have the ability to receive RSS feed updates.

As for subscribing to an RSS Feed, well, that's the "Really Simple" part. Simply click on the RSS feed icon found next to the site's URL. That's it!

In most cases, a page will then open asking you where you want to add the feed. Google, Live Bookmarks, Hotmail... the choice is yours! If you don't want to confirm the addition, simply set your account to a default reader. That way you never have to click anything but the RSS icon. One click and you're on your way.

How does RSS relate to WebRing?
Every single WebRing Community has an RSS feed. This means that if you subscribe to a WebRing RSS feed, you will receive a notification anytime a new site is added. We also have them available on the directory pages, blogs, and forums. No more checking in on a thread. Just use your reader of choice to stay updated.

What's your reader of choice?
We'd like to hear about the RSS reader you use, and why you like it best. Tell us in the comments below.

* There is some fading contention as to what RSS actually stands for. Many who have used RSS since it was introduced in 1999 insist on retaining its original meaning: "Rich Site Summary." Since its dramatic increase in use started in 2005-06, we have chosen to use the much more oft used definition of RSS as "Really Simple Syndication."

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