This post might seem anachronistic to you. In the world of social networking and web apps still with RSS feeds? There’s no denying that RSS feeds have gone out of style, but unlike their more modern counterparts, they are standard, free and open.
What is an RSS feed
Simplifying as much as possible, an RSS feed is an XML file that, through a standard, computer-understandable format, allows you to track updates to a website. Once you subscribe to a blog’s RSS feed you will be able to receive a notification whenever new content is available on the blog. This way you’ll never miss any posts, so this technology is useful for both those who create content and those who enjoy it.
The advent of social media has been a blow to RSS feeds. It has become increasingly common to follow your sources on your “trusted” social network. Nothing wrong with this, but you have to consider that you are relying on an intermediary that very often (always) changes the rules as it pleases. So why not go out on your own and do it yourself?
To subscribe to an RSS feed you need to use specific programs called RSS reader. The choice in this case is wide and varied and much depends on what you are looking for. There are cloud solutions that allow access to our subscriptions from multiple devices as well as there are offline solutions or solutions integrated directly into the browser. You can also use self-hosted solutions, such as miniflux1, to get totally on your own or readers designed to be used from a terminal such as newsboat.
As you can see the choice is really wide, but the leader is surely Feedly. With this I don’t want to force you to use this service, but I simply want to give you a starting point, maybe to be used to find the alternative more suitable for you.
Follow a blog
There is no universal procedure to follow a blog via RSS, but generally this is a very simple procedure in fact just look for the RSS icon on the site (it’s the icon you see on the cover). In the case of this blog, for example, you can find the icon with the link to the RSS feed on the home page.
Can’t find the RSS icon on your favorite website?
Fear not, the last word is not said.
RSS feeds are such a standardized technology that many CMSs generate the RSS feed automatically without the site authors’ knowledge.
In these cases the feed exists, but it is not explicitly shown on the site.
Usually the file containing the feed is named
index.xml and is saved in the root of the site.
Even this blog respects this convention, in fact the RSS feed can be retrieved at the following url: https://norangeb.it/index.xml.
So in case you can’t find the icon, cross your fingers, and try to visit the url
Follow YouTube channels
Several years ago, in order not to miss a video of your favorite creator, all you had to do was subscribe to his YouTube channel. Going in the tab of your subscriptions you could see in chronological order all the videos published by your channels; simple and straightforward. Then over time came recommendation algorithms and custom feeds. The order in which the various videos are shown to you no longer depends on your subscriptions and when the video was published, but is decided by Google.
The result of these changes? Chaos. Neither the creators nor the users of content understood anything anymore and many videos were lost. To solve this problem Google has introduced the bell and you do not want to miss any content in addition to subscribing to the channel you must also activate the notification bell.
Are you tired of this double step? Do you want to be able to follow your favorite content creators without having a Google account? I have good news for you, you can subscribe to your favorite channels through RSS feeds. Google makes this a bit cumbersome, but in the end it’s very simple just follow a few steps.
- Open via a browser the YouTube channel you want to subscribe to.
- Press the right mouse button and select “View page source “.
- Search and copy inside the page the link with this form:
- Add the link to your RSS reader.
The process can be further simplified if you own an Android phone. In this case you can download NewPipe, an alternative YouTube client, and search for the channel of interest. In the page dedicated to the channel, on the top right, you can see the RSS icon, clicking on which you can get the url with the feed.
Follow podcasts and other media
Through RSS feeds you can also stay updated on the episodes of your favorite podcasts. Again, the procedure to subscribe varies greatly depending on the service you are using, but the basic rule is always the same; sharpen your eyesight and look for the RSS feed icon.
The potential of RSS feeds does not end here, combined with other services, can also be used to follow Twitter profiles, newsletters and much more. Not bad for a technology now defunct.
Miniflux is my favorite RSS reader so I hope to talk about it in a dedicated post. ↩︎