What Is RSS?

RSS (Really Simple Syndication) can be confusing if you know little about it. Other people blather on about “subscribing,” “feeds,” “readers” and the like, while you have no idea what they’re talking about.

If this describes you, you’re in the right place.

RSS image

You can find definitions for “RSS” everywhere. Feedburner has a page on it; What Is RSS? is all about it; Wikipedia has a detailed page about it. The list goes on and on.

They’re all way too complicated.

You probably want to know more than just what RSS is. You also want to know why you should care, right? You’re busy enough already – you need a reason to add yet another thing to your life.

RSS, in really simple language

Here’s a great analogy for RSS, from Ed Lee (edited slightly):

Your web content is like water in a lake. Lots of people want it and you want them to have it.

But, to get it, they need to visit the lake, fill their buckets and then go back to their homes to use it.

RSS enables your audience to create a stream from your lake (where the content is) to their home (where they need the content).

I also like an explanation that Chris Anderson uses (paraphrased) (hat tip – Mitch Joel):

We used to have to go out and find stuff – news, sites, etc… RSS lets the web come to you.

For a slightly longer (3 minute) explanation, here’s a brilliant video from the Common Craft Show on what RSS is and how to use it:


Does this make sense to you?

(photo credit: photopia)

Dave Fleet
Managing Director and Head of Global Digital Crisis at Edelman. Husband and dad of two. Cycling nut; bookworm; videogamer; Britnadian. Opinions are mine, not my employer's.