How am I going to keep track of so many sites? Anyone trying to move away from centralized platforms or big tech news agregators has likely asked themselves this very question. And it’s a very valid complaint. Fortunately, the solution has already been in existence for over 20 years.
What is RSS?
RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication. It makes the website’s content available to other sites or applications in the form of a feed that uses a standardized format.
The user can aggregate multiple feeds in one place by using an RSS reader which checks for updates from feeds and allows you to categorize and tag them.
If that didn’t click for you, think of it this way: apps for podcasts are primitive RSS readers and podcasts you subscribe to are RSS feeds. This is not merely an example - that’s literally how podcasts work.
Fully fledged RSS readers, however, aren’t limited to podcasts. You can subscribe to just about anything: blogs, forums, comment sections, YouTube videos, you name it. Many readers also provide options for filtering content based on different properties, for example you can choose not to fetch articles containing a certain word in the title. Automatically modifying content is also a common feature: want to make Twitter links point to nitter, a lightweight and libre front-end, instead? No problem!
Choosing an RSS reader
When it comes to RSS readers, you have two main choices: only have an app on your device, or have the reader on a server and access it via a website (or an application configured to communicate with the server).
The first option is fine if you only want to use the reader on one device. But if you want to access the content on multiple devices, the second one is the way to go as you don’t have to worry about synchronizing feeds between devices. You can also pay someone else to host the reader for you. For example, you can self-host Miniflux, but you can also have the developer host it for you as a paid option.
When it comes to server-side software, I recommend Miniflux. You can also consider Tiny Tiny RSS and Nextcloud News.
Some of the nicer Android reader apps include Feeder and Flym.
On my Linux desktop I use Newsboat, which is a CLI app. NewsFlash seems like a good GUI option. You can find some more options here.
I don’t use Windows, Mac or iOS so I can’t give you any recommendations for these; you’ll have to find a good one yourself. But, as always, avoid proprietary software if at all possible.
Finding RSS feeds
Go to the channel’s page, view the page source and search for rssUrl to find the RSS link.
Some alernative YouTube front-ends like yewtu.be have an RSS icon on the channel’s page.
Go to the channel’s page, click on the three dots in the upper right corner, select Copy RSS URL.
Most podcasts explicitly provide a link to the RSS feed. If it’s not available, however, you can try the methods described below. If they don’t work, you’ll have to do some searching online for the specific website the podcast is hosted on.
Blogs, news, and other sites
If you see that orange icon from the beginning of this post on a website, it will provide you with the link to the RSS feed. You can also try adding feed.rss, index.xml or rss.xml at the end of the site’s URL address, like so:
Another method you can try is viewing the page source and searching for rss.
Don’t worry if the feed’s page isn’t understandable to you. You just have to paste its URL address into your RSS reader - it will display the feed in a readable way.
What if the feed only provides short previews?
Some websites don’t provide full articles through RSS feeds. They would rather you visited their site and exposed yourself to all the ads, trackers and other garbage on there.
To circumvent this, use morss; you can also self-host it. If you’re able to, donate to this project. This guy is doing Lord’s work.
23 years after its introduction, RSS still remains the single best option for staying up to date with news, podcasts, videos, and many other types of content. It allows you to access it all from one place, the RSS reader, without having to visit a dozen separate sites every day; you’re also protected from ads and most trackers. This way of accessing websites will save you time and make for a much more enjoyable Internet experience.
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