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What Is RSS?

Depending on who you ask, RSS stands for either "Rich Site Summary" or "Really Simple Syndication." But no matter what it's called, RSS is a new way to publish information online.

At the heart of the technology is special Web coding, called XML, that has been widely developed by the global online community over the past few years.

The XML code for RSS describes a new type of Web information called a "news feed." Essentially, the feeds can contain a summary and links of the new content on a Web site or anything else a creator desires to share. A company may publish an RSS feed that contains news of its latest products, for example.

Anyone — an online surfer or another Web site — can pick up the RSS codes and with the appropriate Web software display the information automatically.

The concept is similar to how a newswire service operates: Information published by one news organization can be "syndicated" — picked up and displayed — by any other news organization.

What Do I Need to Receive RSS Feeds?

First, you need a feed reader. Performing a search for "RSS Feed Readers" in any major online search engine such as Google or Yahoo! will produce a bundle of software options — many of which are free or at little cost.

Once you've obtained a feed reader, subscribing to an RSS feed is as simple as looking for the appropriate feed link. Most Web sites that publish an RSS feed will display a tiny orange box or button labeled "RSS" or "XML."

Click the feed link you are interested in and your Web browser typically goes to a page of cryptic XML code. No worries, just copy the Web "address" or URL of that page and plug it into your feed reader. The software will then automatically retrieve and display that site's latest information.

Created March 05, 2015, Updated February 07, 2017