Explaining newsfeeds

I couldn't really understand newsfeeds until i finally started used them, with Firefox. Then i read more about them, and started using them myself, and now i think they are totally great — both to use for myself from other sites, and to have on my websites.

So what is it? It's a lot easier to show than to explain in writing. But i'll try:

basics

Think of an 'rss newsfeed' is a way to automatically make a "what's new" page that is available to anyone who wants it — and they don't have to go to your website (or to any website) to see it. They can see what's new on your site, from their own browser or newsfeed program.

Examples:

Phayul – http://www.phayul.com/ provides a newsfeed of their own articles

TCHRD – http://www.tchrd.org/ provides a newsfeed of their new press releases.

If you add their newsfeed link to "live bookmarks" in Mozilla Firefox, then when you look at that bookmark, you will see a list of headlines from that website. You can click on each item and go to that page on the website.

More about Newsfeeds

Newsfeeds can be used in many different ways:

How to do it

1. Make the RSS file:

What is RSS?

RSS means Rich Site Summary. It is made as a simple text file in XML language. Newsreaders know how to interpret the file and display the links in it.

As a web user, you don't need to know anything about "RSS" to use a newsfeed.

As a web developer, you do need to know a little bit about "RSS" to *make* a newsfeed.

It uses XML files, in an XML format called RSS (Rich Site Summary). It's pretty simple - basically it looks like html, with tags called 'title', 'link', and 'description'.

If hand-editing your web pages:

The easiest way is, find an existing rss/xml file, and edit it for your site. You can see some example files in the newsfeed-howto folder

When you add new content to your website, you add a link to the new page to the xml file. With any text editor, copy one of the existing <item> blocks, paste it to be the first <item>, and change the date, title, etc. for your new story. Upload the edited xml file to your website, and you are done.

If using a content management system (Joomla, Wordpress, etc.):

CMSs automatically make a newsfeed file, so you don't have to.

2. Tell the newsreader program where the RSS file is:

(You only need to do this once.)

To show the newsreader programs where your newsfeed file is, (and make the "live bookmark" icon show in Firefox), put this in the <head> section of your web pages:

<link rel="alternate" type="application/rss+xml" 
    title="newsfeed link" 
    href="http://yourdomain.tld/path_to_newsfeed" />

Not all CMS's add this line, even though they do make the newsfeed file. So you may have to paste that in the header template, page template — wherever the <head> section is kept in your CMS.