What is RSS?

RSS is a way to subscribe to latest update feeds from websites. You find RSS (or Atom) data feeds wherever you see the little orange feed icon pictured (or similar). Pop the feed URL in your reader and you automatically get fed new headlines and meta data (author, date, subject, summary and maybe full text), with links to the original articles.

Before the rise of social media, RSS feed reading was a popular way of subscribing to site updates. It was supported by many dedicated feed readers, some email clients and most web browsers. And major sites like Facebook and Twitter offered RSS feeds as an alternative way of subscribing to updates.

However, several years ago popular feed readers such as FeedDemon and Google Reader were discontinued, citing declining popularity, though services such as Feedly continue. Amongst web browsers, Google Chrome is resurrecting support.

Social media services sought to usurp RSS’s role as the web’s universal subscription platform and become the de facto gatekeepers of the web. It’s true that these services can take the place of RSS for many, but it comes at a price.

RSS is ubiquitous but it does its job without fanfare, behind the scenes. It is not a sexy platform like Twitter or Facebook but a standard method of syndicating resource data (typically from blog posts or news articles) between sites. It is an open standard. No-one owns RSS, everyone uses it.

If you look around you’ll find that those that care primarily for your information needs rather than your £££ offer RSS feeds in abundance. Legislation.gov.ukFind Case Law from the National Archives, BAILII and GOV.UK all offer RSS feeds for every conceivable view of their update data.

All blog software and most other content management systems (like WordPress) offer RSS feeds by default . If your blog or site does not offer feeds, or they are not working properly or are not promoted, why not? Ask your systems admin. Fix it!

As Dieter Bohn in The Verge on Why RSS still matters puts it:

“RSS is built so deeply into the bones of so many websites and web services that we take it for granted. Your favorite websites and blogs all usually offer RSS, automatically, with very little effort from their developers. It matters for the web that websites have a structured way to send their data out to apps and to other websites. Many of the apps that are suggested as a viable replacement pull just as much from RSS as they do from social feeds. More importantly, they pull from RSS freely, but they pull from Facebook and Twitter only because those companies let them.“

RSS does not matter to the average end-user who really doesn’t need to know about it. But it matters to the “information manager”. That may be you as an individual wanting to curate your own information update flow; it may be you as a blogger wanting to share some of that flow with your audience; it may be you as a professional information manager tasked with curating the flow for your organisation; it may be you as a commercial publisher wishing to leverage the flow and add value.

Lawfeeder aims to assist you by discovering RSS feeds for you to add to your own feed reader and at the same time providing a resource publishing latest legal updates in most areas of law. We are always on the lookout for legal update feeds and welcome suggestions for additions to the catalogue. See our FAQs page first and then send us your suggestions.