The University of Notre Dame has a growing number of websites that offer RSS or Atom feeds. This page should help you understand the what, why, and how of Feeds.

What is a feed?

Feeds are simply an Internet technology standard that allows busy people to receive updates to web content of interest. You subscribe and then receive new content automatically in your feed reader.

Sometimes feeds are called RSS or Atom feeds. These are just different types of feeds, but most feed readers work with either kind.

If you actually want to know how RSS works, you can dive in a little deeper.

What is a feed reader?

You may already be using a form of feed reader and not even realize it. If you use personalized home page services like MyYahoo, or My MSN, you’ve got RSS capabilities built in. That’s how syndicated content like news, weather and stock quotes appears on your personal page. You can also add content from any blog or other site that uses RSS to provide updates. Most Podcast players also use RSS as a source.

Other web-based tools are primarily dedicated to feed reading only. One of the most popular web-based feed readers at this point is Feedly, and it’s also free and easy. Another popular feed reader is Inoreader.

Finally, there are desktop-based feed readers. These function somewhat like an email program for feeds. Examples include NewsFlow (Windows) and NetNewsWire (Mac).

So how do I subscribe to a feed?

Look for the subscription or feed options. You might see a variety of buttons allowing you to subscribe directly to popular services.

The standard feed icon looks like this: RSS icon

Why should I care?

Unlike getting website updates by email, RSS feeds give you absolute, 100% complete control over the situation:

  • You don’t have to reveal your email address. If you want to stop receiving content, you don’t have to request to be “taken off the list.”
  • One click and the subscription is gone.
  • Plus, because there’s no email address involved, there’s no way a publisher can sell, rent or give away the means to contact you. That means no risk of spam, viruses, phishing, or identity theft.