By June 22, 2006

RSS Intro and Setup for Firefox Users

The RSS 2.0 was formalized in 2002, and is an XML format designed to summaries of Web content and accompanying metadata. The most common use of RSS feeds today are for article or blog summaries. An example of an RSS metadata item would be the URL for the full text of the article/summary.

If you follow lots of Web sites like I do, RSS is a godsend. I used to repeatedly visit the same Web sites each day, hoping that something new had been posted. RSS readers (also called aggregators) do this for you, by automatically updating each site’s latest feed at predetermined intervals. Instead of compulsively checking my favorite sites, I now compulsively check my RSS bookmarks folder to see if any new items have made the feed 😉 This capability is particularly useful for news sites like Ars Technica (shit, do I go a day without linking out to them?), which carries feeds for their main news items as well as their volunteer journal.ars section.

Going RSS-feed only has a few drawbacks. The biggest one is relying solely on RSS feeds side-steps the entire “home page” experience. Despite being part of a world wide web, most Web sites are designed so that visitors funnel to the home page first and then go on to individual stories or subsections. I asked my friend Fish Sprout where her Flickr gallery was the other day — only to be told it’s prominently displayed on her home page. I’d subscribed to her blog’s RSS feed from day one, and had never gone back to the home page.

Easy access in Firefox
One of the my favorite advantages Firefox has over Internet Explorer 6.x is the ability to process RSS feeds (also called LiveBookmarks in Firefox) by default. A few of my friends aren’t sure what an RSS feed is, or how to set up an RSS feed in Firefox. I have added a new page to DrFaulken’s Tome of Useless Knowledge, describing how to set up RSS feeds for Firefox versions 1.50 and higher.

If you’re not using Firefox, unfortunately I can’t be of much help to you. I don’t have the need for a standalone RSS aggregator.

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