I’m probably one of the most web savviest I am one of the most misinformed people on the planet, but that didn’t mean which means I understood little of what RSS feeds were or how they could change my life. Recently, I figured it out, and I thought I’d share.

Most of the world won’t care what RSS stands for or the technology behind the feeds, so I’m not going to bother explaining it. I’m just going to tell you what it’s for, how to use it, and how it will change your life—because it will, trust me.

What It’s For

Okay. RSS feeds let you know when some information—like a blog—has been updated. That way you don’t have to check a bunch of sites to see if information has been updated. Instead, it gets delivered to you.

The great news is while technically you subscribe to an RSS feed to receive these updates, you are not actually providing any information to subscribe. The bad news it that at the moment, there are few ways to subscribe and it’s not as simple as it could be.

How To Use It

To subscribe to an RSS feed, you need to copy the feed’s URL and paste it into your newsreader. Sounds simple. But what’s a newsreader anyway? It’s nothing specific, just a device—such as your email software—that is capable of reading RSS feeds. Thunderbird, which I use as my email client, has a built-in newsreader.

So for example, to set up an RSS feed in Thunderbird, you would:

  1. Find an RSS feed (hint: there’s one on this page) and click it. Don’t worry about what displays. You’re only concerned with the URL displayed in the address bar at the top of the browser.
  2. Copy the feed.
  3. In Thunderbird, click the Tools menu and select Account Settings.
  4. Click the Add Account button.
  5. Select RSS News and Blogs and then enter a name for what will be your collection of blogs, then click Finish.

Now you can add subscriptions to that account by clicking Manage Subscriptions. Then you just paste the RSS feed URL in and you’re set. Thunderbird will check the feed just like it checks for email.

How This Will Change Your Life

You can probably already imagine how wonderful it will be to have even more information delivered to you. Fortunately, this is information you control. To unsubscribe from a feed, you simply delete the feed within your newsreader, and presto! No more feed.

I predict subscription to and support for RSS feeds will become much easier in the near future, and I’m not the only person who thinks this, which is why you can rest assured the prediction will come true. No doubt.

RSS feeds will be everywhere: email clients, mobile phones, cars, trains, planes, stores, your dog, everywhere. Embrace them now, and you’ll be too cool for school. Um, yep.

Incidentally, if you have information about subscribing by means other than Thunderbird, let me know and I’ll add it to the post.