Really Simple Syndication (RSS) is—as the name implies—a web content syndication format. These are my RSS feeds:
Subscribe to my writings: https://bjornrust.com/feed/feed.xml Subscribe to my Mastodon: https://firstname.lastname@example.org
Please read on if you do not know what to do with these links. RSS allows new content from across the web to be gathered into a single stream stripped of all the usual noise rather than requiring the reader to visit each source individually. Readers can subscribe to websites in full or just articles by a particular author or in a single category. To do this, readers employ a 'feed aggregator' or 'reader'.
These services allow readers to keep their reading in sync across devices by connecting to an application or simply consuming content in the browser. Here are the two I recommend:
- Feedly is a free service with paid upgrades, great for new starters without privacy concerns.
- Feedbin is a paid and open-source service. The premium choice for users who want to manage a wide range of content, including email newsletters and podcasts.
If you are reading this, you may be looking for the simplest solution, but if that's not true, you might like to self-host an aggregator. A comprehensive list of solutions can be found here:
A desktop or mobile application allows readers to connect their cloud-based services for a different reading experience or manage content directly in the app without third parties.
- Thunderbird is a cross-platform, free, open-source email client with built-in feed support, great for Linux and Windows users.
- NetNewsWire is a free, open-source aggregator for macOS and iOS. This is my personal choice, with support for a range of cloud-based services. However, I prefer to use it as a stand-alone application.
- Reeder is a paid and proprietary aggregator for macOS and iOS. The premium choice, as it does everything NetNewsWire can and more. I've used a version of Reeder since early 2012; however, I prefer to support free and open-source software (FOSS) whenever possible.
Select the aggregator that suits you, and don't be afraid to experiment; your subscriptions can be easily transferred from one to the other.
Next, identify the content you want to follow; let's say you find my writings interesting and feel it might be worth keeping an eye out for my next piece. Instead of visiting https://bjornrust.com/writings/ to see if I've shared something new, you can add the URL to your aggregator. Here is a guide for NetNewsWire and another for Thunderbird.
Some publishers like Wired and The New Yorker will have a dedicated feed page, but you can also use browser extensions to expose feeds, for instance, browsing to The New York Times Climate and Environment section would reveal:
I use Want My RSS for Firefox, but Safari users can simply use the NetNewsWire extension.
Be aware that not all feeds are identified as RSS; you might also encounter Atom or JSON feeds. Whatever the case, the experience is largely the same.
My friend, Niklas Jordan, inspired this guide; read his version here: https://www.niklasjordan.com/rss.html