What is RSS?
RSS is a way for you to get information and updates from a web site. RSS stands for Real Simple Syndication and is referred to as a “feed” that you can subscribe to. A benefit of subscribing to RSS is that you don’t have to check the Web site for updates. The updates come to you as soon as they are published. RSS uses a technology called XML, which can be easily read by machines. RSS is indicated by this icon:

What is an RSS Reader?
In order for you to see the RSS feeds, you need something called a “reader” or “aggregator.” This is basically software that monitors the site and automatically shows you what’s new. Feed readers can monitor multiple sites and provide updates to all of them in one place.

There are many different kinds of readers and new ones crop up all the time. Some are installed on your desktop, others are web-based, some are connected with your email software, and some are connected with your browser. The kind of reader you use may be influenced by the operating system of your computer. Browser based news readers let you read RSS feeds from any computer, whereas other readers will only have feeds available on the computer that it is installed on.

You can get more information about different kinds of readers and download some of them here (external link).

How do you subscribe to RSS feeds?
Just click on the RSS button when you see it. Some browsers, including IE 7, Firefox, Opera and Safari automatically look for RSS feeds whenever you visit a web site and will show the RSS icon in the far right of the address bar when it finds RSS on the site. If you click on the RSS icon in the address, you will be able to see the feed and choose how you want to subscribe.

Here’s what it looks like:

RSS Subscription Process

On other sites, depending on your browser and the way the site is coded, you may click on an RSS button on the page and see something like this:

RSS Subscription Process in IE

In this case, just copy the address at the top and paste it into your reader to subscribe.

The exact process of subscribing to a feed depends upon the particular feed reader software you are using. Be sure to consult the instructions of your feed reader for more information.

What is the difference between the RSS feed and the email?

In most cases the Library of Congress offers you the very same information in either an RSS feed or by email. The difference is the RSS will go to your RSS reader while the email will go to your inbox. You may find one is more convenient or easier to use than the other. For example, RSS feeds won’t get trapped in your email spam filter. On the other hand, you may prefer to have all information go to your email inbox. Occasionally, some Library feeds or updates may only be available either by RSS or email. If that’s the case, you will see only 1 option to subscribe.

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