What Are Webfeeds (RSS), and Why Should You Care?

This 12-part tutorial is a major revision and expansion of an article I originally published Oct. 18, 2003 under the title “What Is RSS and Why Should You Care?”

Please note that this tutorial reflects an important shift in terminology at CONTENTIOUS. This publication is transitioning from RSS feed to the more generic nickname webfeed. This shift is explained in Part 11.


  1. Introduction: What’s New Online?
  2. How Most Webfeeds Work
  3. Main Advantage: Webfeeds Save You Time
  4. Getting Started: You Need a Feed Reader
  5. Subscribing to Webfeeds
  6. Finding Good Webfeeds
  7. For Publishers: Why Webfeeds Beat E-mail Newsletters
  8. Publishing Your Own Webfeed
  9. Content: What to Put on Your Webfeed
  10. Webfeed Disadvantages
  11. Why Do I Say “Webfeed” Rather than “RSS?”
  12. The Big Picture for Webfeeds

Read on… and feel free to link to this resource or quote from it (with attribution, please).

16 thoughts on What Are Webfeeds (RSS), and Why Should You Care?

Comments are closed.

  1. Regarding Cheryl’s comment for a feed reader:

    Try FeedDemon (http://www.feeddemon.com). That’s the one I use. The latest version handles both RSS and Atom feeds just fine, and I love the interface. I believe there’s a free 30-day trial, and it costs $29.95 if you decide to buy it

  2. So I’m looking for an Webfeed reader. I think my requrements are fairly simple.

    1. I want it to run on a Windows platform.

    2. I want it to not require the use of Internet Explorer or Outlook.

    3. I want support for Atom as well as RSS.

    Can I find anything? No. Depressing.

  3. Okay NOW you have my attention. I am now onto a couple of feeds to try it out.

    But am I not sure if I have drawn a correct conclusion.

    For example, I receive mails from corporations when they publish new jobs that could be of interest to me. That is cool because then I don’t have to bother trapsing through the long list of sites that make up “The Usual Suspects”.

    My conclusion on RSS is that I now would have to do something active in FeedDemon or whatever to see what’s new. Is this correct? Or can RSS Feed automatically give me a nudge that something has turned up at a particular site.

  4. This is a great intro to RSS. I am trying to explain the benefits of it to my organization, and I am very excited about its potential for enabling people to stay in touch with the content they want to read.

    We are looking to use it within our intranet (via Movable Type), in order to encourage our organization to move to a model where content is published more regularly and made more feely available for consumption.

  5. Thanks. I’d wondered what the whoop-de-do about RSS was, but my cursory search did not turn up a good explaination. This was great. I’ll use your weblog as an example feed to start…


  6. This is an extremely well done explanation of RSS for the RSS newbie, Amy. You’ve taken something that is new, that *shouldn’t* be intimidating (but naturally is because it *is* new) and explained it in a way that shows the obvious strengths of this simple but powerful technology.

  7. Hi,

    Thanks for all this! I’ll be linking you.
    A couple of days ago you wrote about the need for an aggregator which integrated into a browser. I’m no techie or anything. Isn’t [http://www.aggreg8.net] just that ? It only works with Mozilla or Firebird, and I haven’t tested it yet (just installed it a couple of seconds ago)…

  8. Syndication for Intranets
    Headline Syndication for Intranets by Amy Gahran, at CMS Watch So you have an intranet. Perhaps it’s supported by a costly and complex content management system. It’s full of rich, useful content that could enhance many types of projects and collabor…

  9. Headline Syndication for Intranets
    (by Amy Gahran,
    2004-10-05) So you have an intranet. Perhaps it’s supported by a costly and complex
    content management system. It’s full of rich, useful content that could enhance
    many types of projects and collaboration throughout your enter…

  10. Kleenex, Xerox, RSS…
    Seems to be a mighty storm brewin’ – a bit more powerful than a Nor’easter, too. Been a long time comin’. It’s RSS, it’s feeds, it’s XML – it’s all of the above. As an ex-English major, I’m torn. Does “Atom” really mean RSS? Does RDF really e…