Tuesday, February 19, 2008

«Web Feeds Explained»

Web Feed IconTC left a comment in a previous article asking for an explanation of what exactly a web feed and Google Reader are. So I imagine there's other out there with the same question.

A web feed is a way to get updates from a site without actually having to visit the site. A web feed can be identified as RSS, Atom, or XML. There's also a universally accepted orange logo, as seen in this article. You have a program, called an aggregator (or feed reader), that is either on your computer or they can be web based. This aggregator collects a specialized XML file from each site you're subscribed to. It then checks the file for anything new. If there is something new it will alert you.

Lets say you have 100 sites you'd like to keep track of every day. It's a pain to visit each one and only find 10 of them have been updated on any given day. Now let's say each of those sites has a web feed. You can subscribe to their web feeds with an aggregator. Now you can just open your aggregator and it will tell you what sites have been updated since the last time you checked. Some sites even include the entire article in the web feed, allowing you to read the entire new article within the aggregator. Suddenly, keeping track of 100 (or more) sites isn't all that bad.

Google Reader screenshotI use Google Reader, although there are tons of different aggregators out there. Google Reader is web based, although it has an option to view feeds offline. I've included a screenshot of my Google Reader, with the personal information removed from the address bar. You'll have to click the image to see the full size. As you can see, I have my own feed selected. There is also 1 article I haven't read yet from Ayrshire Blog and Garry's Blog, as well as one further down the list.

EDIT: Look in my sidebar (directly under the search bar) to find the link to subscribe to my web feed.


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