Support » Everything else WordPress » Can someone explain RSS to me like…

  • … I’m a 5-year old?

    My test blog is at and I do, of course, have RSS links in the footer. When clicked, they go nowhere but an error page.

    Now, I know NOTHING about RSS. Usually, if I click on an RSS link on any given site, all I see is XML-formatted text in the browser. Someone once told me that I needed a “reader”.

    I have Googled all over the place, so please don’t just give me a link that explains RSS. I’ve read them all and am even more confused.

    Here are my questions:

    What is RSS?
    How do I offer it through my WordPress blog?
    Should I even bother, or should I remove those links?



Viewing 9 replies - 1 through 9 (of 9 total)
  • First, the error on your website is related to the fact that the word “feed:” has been added to the actual RSS feed URL. This is a future standard that will work at some point time, just like “mailto:” works right now. To fix this, just edit your footer.php or sidebar.php or whatever your RSS feeds appear and remove the “feed:” portion of the URL.

    RSS is the mechanism by which you syndicate content on your website to the world. You can syndicate an excerpt or the entire content. You have that granular control.

    People can write websites that “suck” the RSS feed from various other websites and show their contents. Bloglines, for example, is a web based reader does exactly this.

    When people talk about a “reader”, they are talking about programs like Sharpreader, Firefox and others. Check this list to see other readers for other platforms.

    What you would do is download one of these programs and then enter the FEED url, in WordPress, it could be http://<>/feed/rss2 into the program. It will then go and take that XML output you see in your browser, intrepret it and show you the website’s content.

    This way you can take a single program and put in the feeds of all the websites you usually frequent, Slashdot, Yahoo News, Gizmodo, WordPress Dev blog, your own blog, your friend’s blog and so on.

    This will allow you to keep up to date with all the contents on these websites without having to actually visit them with your browser.

    All WordPress blogs have RSS capability by default, you do not have to do anything. If your blog is of interest to readers, they might just subscribe to your feed to keep up with it rather than visiting your site.

    I hope I’ve made things a little clearer.


    A couple resources on RSS and syndication:

    Whether you provide it or not is up to (the stuff above should help figure out if you want to). But keep in mind that WordPress offers it out of the box. You don’t have to do anything more than provide the link.

    The error you’re getting is due to the ‘feed:’ scheme used before the link to your feed. This works like ‘mailto:’, which launches ones email application. The ‘feed:’ causes ones syndication reader program to open (that is, one set up on your system as the “default” application for it); for example, when I click your feed link, SharpReader–the application I use to read syndicated sites–opens with your feed.

    ‘feed:’ is not a universally supported uri scheme yet, but then neither was mailto: once upon a time. However, you don’t need to provide it. You can edit your templates where the rss link resides and remove it. So where you have:

    <a href="feed:<?php bloginfo('rss2'); ?>">Entries (RSS)</a>

    Change it to:

    <a href="<?php bloginfo('rss2'); ?>">Entries (RSS)</a>


    That feed: reference must have been there alla along, because I never touched those links in the footer.php file… Does WordPress have them there by default? If they’re not generally supported, why were they there?

    Those explanations were outstanding, and I understand a lot better now. Obviously, for my OWN site, I wouldn’t need a reader on MY PC. Why should I subscribe to what I write, right?

    But what you’re saying is that if someone has one of these readers, stumbles upon my site, and clicks that link, THEY will not see XML crap, but rather a page of some kind that shows them what I’ve written. Correct?

    One last thing. When I view my site in FF, I see a little orange icon in the bottom right-handed corner that says, “Add live bookmarks for this page’s feeds.” When clicked, I could subscribe to RSS 2.0, RSS .92, or ATOM 0.3. What is the difference in them all?

    Thanks, fellas. Truly great info!


    “Does WordPress have them there by default? “

    They’re placed there by the person who designed the template, theme, etc. They reside in WordPress’ Default and Classic themes because the WordPress devs made a decision to push the scheme into wider use. It might be argued that unless those providing the actual syndication tools and resources don’t, it’s unlikely anyone will. You can certainly disagree with their choice.

    Any thoughts on my other questions? Still slightly confused, although less so now, thanks to you guys.


    “But what you’re saying is that if someone has one of these readers, stumbles upon my site, and clicks that link, THEY will not see XML crap, but rather a page of some kind that shows them what I’ve written. Correct?”

    Yep. *If* their reader is the sort that sets up as a default on your system for the protocol (it’s not really a protocol like ‘http:’ is, but is referred to in this way for application handling). Most syndication readers provide a list of recent articles–or items–in a feed and the content of the one selected. What is displayed for an item is often a summary, sometimes full text. You can set this in WordPress under Options > Reading, Syndication Feeds.

    RE: RSS, ATOM, etc. “What is the difference in them all?”

    Not much, really. Or at least, not much as concerns the user of the feed, most of the time. Current syndication readers support a number of formats, if not all.

    RSS (.92) is somewhat archaic these days, and typically used when ones feed requirements are trivial. RSS2 is its successor, a more robust format that allows for full text feeds (.92 and below did summaries only), and techie stuff such as encoded content (for multi-byte data) and “enclosures” (useful for podcasting/audio syndication). ATOM and RSS1 (another format WP supports–more formally referred to as RDF/RSS1) are further attempts to extend the syndication format. A bit of a mess, but one’s safe sticking with RSS2. Some offer an ATOM feed as well (for the cool factor, you might say).

    Much appreciated!


    Is there any way to tell if anyone has subscribed to your RSS feed?

    Is there a script or plugin that makes it easier for people to subscribe to your feed? You know, so your RSS URL appears automatically in the subscription space so the potential subscriber doesn’t have to cut-and-paste?

    Rosie, that’s apparently what this “feed:” thing is supposed to do, though it’s so “not universally supported” that no browser I’ve used supports it. (Not Firefox, not Mozilla, not Internet Explorer. Pretty far from universal actually.)

    In the meantime, you can go to lots of reader sites like Feedburner, Newsgator and Bloglines and get code to add to your site so that people using those readers will have one click subscription. Bloglet uses your RSS feed to offer people the ability to receive an email subscription to your blog by filling in their email address in a box, though it seems to occasionally have issues with WordPress blogs. Feedburner, Bloglines and Bloglet definitely provide numbers of subscribers and some other information. Not sure about Newsgator.


Viewing 9 replies - 1 through 9 (of 9 total)
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