What is RSS?
First released in 1999, RSS (Rich Site Summary, or often Really Simple Syndication) is a standardised format used for the syndication of oft-updated content. Blog posts are a prime example, though it could potentially be used for any updates to a website. In a nutshell, it's a method of automatically syndicating your content to a subscriber base. You may have noticed the RSS icon without ever really paying attention to it; that's what this icon refers to.
How does it work?
Each item that is updated has its own feed (or channel). This feed is just an address that your users add to an RSS reader, software specifically designed to work with RSS feeds. Each time you publish new content, the feed is automatically updated and your subscribers will receive a notification. Most subscribers use their web browser or Microsoft Outlook as their RSS reader, though there are also a lot of specialist programs out there just for RSS feeds.
This sounds great!
It is, up to a point. Some of the more common issues are:
- It is not natively supported in Google Chrome. Clicking on a feed link in Chrome will dump a pile of code straight into your browser window; if you don't know better, you could be forgiven for thinking that the feed is broken.
- Traditionally, checking the feed is up to the user. How often the feed is checked for updates depends entirely on their reader settings, and if the user doesn't open their reader program they won't receive updates at all.
- And the big one; A lot of users simply don't want to bother with it. They just want the information delivered to them without the hassle of setting up feeds and monitoring them for updates.
Is there a solution?
There are a couple of ways to get the most out of your RSS and to offer the functionality of automatic updates without the limitations. The one that most appeals to a lot of users, and the one we recommend, is using email delivery. Any updates are automatically delivered to your subscribers as an email; all they have to do is enter their email address when they sign up. Google's Feedburner service
offers email delivery combined with subscription reports and branding options, and is the latest addition to our support offering for existing clients.