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What is RSS?

Updated: 27 April 2012

RSS or Really Simple Syndication enables you to have information sent directly to your computer.

Subscribing to free RSS feeds of your favourite online content is an easy and free way to keep up with the latest information, services, resources and news available from many organisations.

RSS is a way of formatting the data on a web page so that computers can read it. Special programs on your PC are then able to notify you of updates, and display the content in a readable form.

Choosing an RSS reader

To use RSS you need to decide if you are going to use the abilities of your web browser or use a special computer program called an RSS reader or aggregator. Modern web browsers typically support RSS. However, users of earlier browsers, such as Internet Explorer 6, will need an RSS reader or aggregator to subscribe to and receive RSS. If you decide to use an application to read your RSS feeds you will find many to choose from. Some are downloadable to your PC, and will store the RSS feeds on the hard drive of your computer, in a similar fashion to the way email is handled. Others are web-based, like Google Reader, or MSN Live.

How to use RSS feeds

The RSS icon in a Firefox web browser

After you have chosen your RSS reader the next thing is to decide which feeds you want to subscribe to. Most websites providing RSS feeds will display the RSS symbol. This symbol will be present in the address bar of your browser in Firefox, or with the icons in Internet Explorer, or even displayed on the web page. Clicking on this symbol will allow you to subscribe to the RSS feed.

The RSS icon in an Internet Explorer web browser.

You don't need anything to view the RSS feeds displayed on this website. To view the whole article click on the appropriate orange RSS icon or on the links in the Sign up to our news feeds box on the homepage.