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RSS Feeds are the Better Email Newsletters

Reading News and Blogs via Really Simple Syndication - Spam Free


Email newsletters are great, but spam is not. The deluge of junk mail has made it increasingly painful to follow the news and what's happening on your favorite web sites via email.

Either the newsletter you're eager to read is hidden in a massive spam attack or it does not arrive because your ISP is blocking spam and your favorite newsletter falls victim to the filters, too (now you know why a "false positive" is something negative).

RSS Feeds as an Alternative to Email Newsletters

Fortunately, there is an alternative way to subscribe to the web sites and blogs you visit regularly: RSS. RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication or Rich Site Summary (of course, the acronym can be explained in many other creative ways), and it allows you to "syndicate" news summaries from web sites.

You can use these syndicated RSS "feeds" to display the latest news from major newspapers, for example, on your own web site or read them on other sites collecting these feeds.

And There's no Spam

But you can also display RSS feeds on your desktop and use them like email newsletters. There are special programs and web-based services called "RSS feed readers" or "RSS aggregators" that, given the URL of an RSS feed will fetch the latest headlines periodically and let you read them comfortably and efficiently (avoiding the info glut so common today).

The best thing about RSS is that if you subscribe to an RSS feed, you only get what you want. If you tell the feed reader to stop collecting a site's feed, it will stop. And there's no spam. And there's no spam!

Using RSS Feeds

Subscribing to an RSS feed is easy.

  • Look for a little orange XML icon on your favorite news site or blog, telling you to "syndicate this site".
  • Copy the feed's URL (it will usually end in .xml, .rdf or .rss).
  • Paste it in your RSS feed reader.

Now let the feed reader do its aggregating work, and enjoy the news.

Should you ever encounter "Atom" or "web" feeds instead of "RSS" feeds, do not let that confuse you. Essentially, they are all the same, just different names and slightly different protocols for the same functionality. Your RSS feed reader should be able to use either version just fine.

RSS and Your Email Program

While dedicated programs to read RSS feeds are developed, have you noticed how the most useful borrow much of the interface and functionality known from your email program? Before long, more and more email programs and web-based email services will be able to read RSS news. Mozilla Thunderbird, for example, integrates RSS feeds nicely and seamlessly, and NewsGator turns Outlook into a capable aggregator.

Email clients are the natural environment for Usenet news, email and RSS feeds. These methods of following news are strikingly similar, and aggregating them all in the same powerful program has many benefits.

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