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Double Stamp is an easy-to-understand guide to useful computer and internet technology. It's written to be readable by everyday computer users.

Introduction to Web Feeds

Have you seen the terms “RSS“, “XML“, “Atom” and “Web Feeds” on your favorite internet sites, but have no clue what they mean? Maybe you wonder what these little icons mean?


feed icon xmlIcon feed icon


This is a brief, non-technical tutorial on what these terms mean and how they can save you a ton of time.


In a nutshell, “web feeds” provide users of the internet a way to check newly posted content to a website without having to visit each of the sites individually. “XML” is the format in which web feeds are written, but the details are for the programmers. “RSS” and “Atom” are simply different specifications as to how the feed is written. Sound too geeky? Don’t worry about the details, read on…


Let’s say, for example, that you tend to visit three websites daily: doublestamp, usatoday.com, and reuters.com. Each of these sites are constantly updating their content, so to find out about new articles, you need to check each of them individually, right? Wrong!


If the websites you visit provide a web feed, you can simply subscribe to the feed by copying the URL of the feed into a “feed reader.” That’s what those little icons are for; they are the link to the site’s feed. A feed reader takes the feeds from all of the different websites that you have subscribed to, and displays them conveniently together. The new items that you have not read yet are usually highlighted in bold, or are marked somehow as new so that you don’t need to browse through old content. To see what I mean, look at the following picture of a popular online feed reader by Google. Notice the feeds to the left, and the content to the right.


Google Reader


So, after subscribing to a feed, one can quickly browse through new content on dozens of websites in a fraction of the time that it would take to visit them individually. If you are interested in a certain topic, you can click the feed item and it will take you to the website to read the full article. You’ll never miss an article that your interested in, and you’ll save tons of time.


It is important to make sure that your feed reader will read both “Atom” and “RSS” formats. Some websites provide RSS, others Atom, and some provide both. To help you out, here is a list of some FREE feed readers that you can start using immediately.



  • Google Reader - An online reader that is easy to use. Works with most browsers and operating systems. This one is my favorite.

  • Sage - A great extension to the Firefox browser for reading feeds.

  • FeedReader - A good feed reader for windows.

  • NewsGator - NewsGator is available in both an online version and an installable program. The installable version isn’t free.

  • There are many other readers that you can find by searching the web, and most new browsers have feed reading capabilities themselves.


Give it a try. It’s a simple concept, but it will enable you to browse a lot of content in no time at all. You can start by subscribing to the Double Stamp feed right here:


feedIcon Double Stamp feed

1 comment:

kevinandtoriwilding said...

I bet you that I can triple stamp a double stamp.