How to Use RSS

Back to Home

Recently throughout this site I've encouraged readers to use RSS and a couple of times I've mentioned where you can use it as an alternative to other things, but I haven't provided any resources for you to learn how to use RSS. Using RSS is strightforward, but does require some knowledge.

What is RSS

I have talked about what RSS is here before. The breif explaination is that RSS is a technology that provides a social media-like feed of all the content you subscribe to. RSS predates and has been eclipsed by social media, but using RSS is much better than using social media because you can use it to see the things you subscribe to and nothing else.

Using RSS

Step 1 Find an RSS Reader

RSS readers are just what they sound like, they are applications that read the content of RSS feeds that you subscribe to and place them all in one place. The full content of many feeds (not mine) will allow you to read the content you've subscribed to without leaving the RSS reader. At the very least it will give you a link to each piece of new content.

Odds are you alrady have some sort of RSS reader on your phone, apps like Apple or Google News are thchnically RSS readers because they use RSS to congregete articles of many different news sites in one place. (Podcast apps are also types of RSS readers) And while clicking on an RSS link in Safari will take you to Apple News this is not the RSS reader that you need or want because it is not general purpose, and you don't have much control over what it shows you.

If you search for an RSS reder in your app store or in your browser, odds are one of the first things to pop up will be Feedly or something like it. While Feedly is a general purpose RSS reader I don't reccomend using that either because it, much like social media, will put adds and other promoted content directly into your feed. You don't want this, the reason to use RSS is to avoid this sort of thing, look for an RSS reader that looks nice, but doesn't do this. Here are my reccomendations:


I use Newsify as my iPhone, I tried out several apps and this was the best RSS reader I could find for an iPhone. There is an app called Newsify for Android but it has no connection to the iPhone Newsify, I haven't tried it but it doesn't look promising, so if you use Andriod you will probably want to look arround for an RSS reader that fits you.


I looked arround and found that Windows has no decent stand alone RSS application, so on Windows I use the Feedbro browser extension for my RSS needs. Browser extensions will of course be avalible for any operating system, but if you are not using Windows you have other options. When I was doing research I found plenty of open source RSS readers avalible for Linux and Mac. If you're using a Mac I'm sure you can find something good. On Linux I am currenly using Newsboat, which is terminal based, but there are plenty other great RSS reders avalible exclusively on Linux.

Step 2 Find RSS Feeds

Most sites won't advertize their RSS feeds as conspicuously as mine does but a lot of times you can still find them.

The RSS Logo

You've probably seen the RSS logo hundreds of times but ignored it because you didn't know what is was. The RSS logo is an orange square with what looks like an almost sideways Wifi symbol in it. Many sites will display this logo or a simplified version of it in the same place where they have links to their Facebook and Twitter pages. The logo will be a link to their RSS feed. However depending on the browser you are using clicking on the link could have different results, most desktop browsers will show you the raw XML of the feed, but if you are using Safari on an iPhone it will try (and likely fail) to open it in Apple News. What you want to do with the link is copy it.

More Complicated Searching

Because RSS has diminished in popularity many sites don't adertize them, but many still have them. What I do to look for them is take the URL of their homepage and try to put stuff like "/rss" or "/rss.xml" or "/feed.rss" to the end of it in the address bar until one of them works. Alternatively you could bring up the raw HTML of the site and Ctrl-F rss or atom (atom being a similar technology to RSS compatible with RSS readers), if there is a feed to be found this will usually get you to it.


YouTube used to have a feature that allowed you to have all of your subscriptions put into an RSS feed for you. While this feature no longer exists, YouTube still automatically generates RSS feeds for all its channels, it just doesn't tell you it does. Here is how you find them:

First find the Channel ID

The channel ID can be found at the end of the URL of any YouTube channel. It will be a somewhat long and seemingly random string of characters. Here is what a typical Youtube Channel URL will look like:

  • There is a chance that the URL will have the user id in it rather than the channel ID, if so the next step will be a bit different. Note that the user ID and channel name are ofthen defferent. Here is a URL with a user ID:

  • Second Append Channel ID to the YouTube RSS Prefix

    Simply take the channel ID and put it at the end of this URL:

  • If you have the user ID rather than the channel Id put it at the end of this URL instead:

  • And just like that you've found the RSS feed for your favoirte YouTube channel. (After writing that out I realize it wouldn't be to hard for me to write a program to do that for you, maybe I'll write one and put it up here for you to use.)

    Alternate Sites

    There are also a handful of other sites which offer alternate front ends to popular sites like Instagram and Twitter. These sites will offer RSS feeds to acounts on these popular sites, although using them will not provide the same benefit as using the actual sites will and putting a bunch of tweets in your RSS feed can fill it with a lot of junk. You can look these up if you really want to but while I think they are worth mentioning here, I don't think that they are really worth using. Although if you have a friend who rarely posts anything on social media and you don't want their posts to be burried in those of others, using one of these could be a good idea.

    Step 3 Subscribe to the Feed

    Once you've got an RSS reader and an RSS feed all you need to do is find whatever part of your RSS reader will let you add a new feed and paste the link in. Then you're privately subscribed to whatever feed you put in there. Feel free to configure your RSS reader however you like and then enjoy your custom and distraction free place to explore the internet.

    Some Final Thoughts

    I don't think that many big companies want you to use RSS, they prefer you to set up accounts with them and use their often inferior and bloated apps so they can serve you adds and other things you don't want. Don't settle for that.

    Anyways, I hope you learn to enjoy the use of RSS. After starting to use RSS I found that I was wasting less time looking for updates on the things I like to stay caught up with. When you look for stuff like that and it isn't there you find other things that you weren't looking for, often of lesser quality, and you end up wasting time consuming them instead which can easily be avoided by using RSS. Your time is valuable, treat it as such.