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What is RSS? What are feeds?

Lots of websites have news or updates of some kind.

They also have a bunch of other things — a header at the top of the page, and maybe links and ads and widgets on the left or right (or both). And then some more stuff at the bottom of the page.

Like this imaginary squished-down web page:

Website diagram that shows the good part — where RSS comes from

The good part is the part in the middle — that’s the part with the news. That’s the part that you read. That’s the part you’re interested in.

And that’s what RSS is — it’s just that part, minus the rest of the stuff.


That “good part” is actually made available as a feed. A feed is just a specially-formatted text file that readers like NetNewsWire can read. The files look weird — they kind of look like the source behind web pages, with angle brackets and everything.

The important thing is: it’s NetNewsWire’s job to know how to read the feed. And it’s NetNewsWire’s job to show you what articles you haven’t read yet.

By doing this — by running NetNewsWire — you can let NetNewsWire find out when there’s something new. You don’t have to go to the websites and check to see if there’s something new. You can save time, and not have to rely on your memory.

Types of feeds

People often talk or write about RSS — but sometimes they mention Atom, too. Atom does the same thing as RSS. Sometimes they mention the JSON Feed format, which does the same thing as RSS too.

If you see RSS or Atom or JSON Feed, just know that NetNewsWire handles all these, no problem.