Introduction to RSS Feeds
If you clicked on this post, you’re probably unfamiliar with the concept of RSS feeds (as I was only about a year ago)! If you aren’t a very tech-y person, or perhaps primarily use social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, etc to access your daily news/updates, the concept of RSS is likely very foreign, but the truth is, RSS has been around way longer than Facebook – and it’s better!
In a nutshell, RSS feeds are a way for you to create and curate your very own news feed of all the things you want to keep updated with across the internet. News feeds from big tech platforms such as Facebook put you in a controlled little box, dictated by a manipulative algorithm that decides who and what you are going to see and when you’re going to see it. Big tech news feeds like Facebook are most often limited to the confines of their own website. An RSS feed, on the other hand, is your very own news feed that gives YOU full control over what you want to see, when you want to see it. Your feed is not restricted to just one website; you can follow what and who you want to follow across tons of websites. You can see your feed all in one place with no manipulative algorithms, all curated by you.
How to Create Your Own RSS Feed
Method #1: Browser Extension
There are many different browser extensions/addons to choose from for this purpose. Feedbro Reader is the one I personally use, and it is available for both Firefox and Google Chrome. Get it here if you are on Firefox, and get it here if you are on Google Chrome. If you’re using a different browser, so long that it is based off of either Firefox or Google Chrome, the same methods apply.
Once you’ve installed Feedbro to Firefox, you should see a small orange monitor icon appear in the top right corner area of your browser window. Click it, and then click ‘Open Feed Reader’ from the drop down menu to access your RSS feed. You will notice your feed is empty. Now, this isn’t necessary but if you’re the organized type, the first thing you may want to do before filling your feed up is create folders/categories to organize your feeds into. To do that, you will see a small yellow folder icon with a green + sign in the top left of that page. Click it, and name the folder by whatever categories would be relevant to the feeds you intend to add (ex. Favorite Vloggers, News, Politics, Healthy Recipes, Spirituality, DIY Crafts, etc). Once you’ve done that, all you have to do is add feeds to those categories from sources you’re interested in following.
To add a feed, go to a website that has an updated timeline/feed. This could be a blog, video channel, public influencer’s profile where they post updates, a news site with articles, etc. Once there, click on that little orange monitor icon in the top right of the screen that was mentioned earlier (that is your Feedbro addon icon). Then click the ‘Find Feeds In Current Tab’ from the drop down menu. You will then see one or more items appear with a checkbox next to them. Make sure the one you want to follow is selected, unselect any that might not be relevant, and then underneath where it says “add to folder”, select one of the relevant categories you created earlier from the drop down menu, and click the ‘subscribe’ button next to it.
And that’s it! If you go back and open your Feebro reader, simply click on the folder category you put your subscribed feed into and you can now see the feed for that specific person/thing there. To add more feeds, repeat the above steps. Soon enough you’ll have a full feed to keep you busy and informed throughout the day! If you’d like to learn more about the functions and features of Feedbro, visit their website here.
If you are using a Chrome browser, the steps are exactly the same as Firefox above, except to access the Feedbro extension, you will likely have to click the icon that looks like a puzzle piece (the chrome extensions icon) in the top right of your browser window in order to access the Feedbro extension.
Method #2: RSS Feed Websites for PC.
I don’t favor this method as you’ll have to access your feed through a third party website. With that usually entails feed limits, pay walls, user tracking, data collection, and the potential of censorship. However, this may be useful if you use a browser that isn’t based on Chrome or Firefox or a browser that doesn’t allow for addons/extensions.
Feedly is the most popular web RSS feed reader. It has a sleek, modern interface and is useful for more than just RSS feeds. The Basic version of Feedly is free, which allows you to subscribe to up to 100 sources, three feeds, and three boards. You can access it through any web browser, and it also has its own Android and iOS mobile apps.
To use Feedly, go to their website and sign up for an account. Once you are logged in, you can create and organize your feeds via creating feed folders in the left side panel. To start adding feeds, click on the RSS icon with a plus symbol on the left edge of the page (this is the feed discovery page), and paste the link/URL to the page you want to follow. A drop down menu will appear, select the feed you want to follow, click the ‘Follow’ button beside it and then select the folder/category you’d like to sort the feed into. That’s it! Anytime you want to access your feed, go to the designated folder for it to appear.
If you are more of a technical person, there are other options available that I would recommend exploring via web search.
Method #3: Mobile Apps
If you own an android phone, I recommend getting the Feeder app. You can get it directly from the Google Playstore, or from F-Droid. The reason I recommend this app, is because it is free, open source, and the developers don’t harvest any data from you. It is a truly free RSS Reader app that respects your privacy with no strings attached.
Once you download the app, open it, and tap the 3 vertical dots in the top right corner of the screen. Tap the ‘Add Feed’ option from the drop down menu, and paste your RSS feed url. This is where it gets a little tricky, because you will need the URL to the actual feed itself, not just the website link of the page you want to follow. To get the feed, you will need to add one of six options to the end of the URL of the page you want to add to your feed. You can try each one to see which works.
The options are:
For example, if you wanted to subscribe to my status updates (located at https://status.cafe/users/thecozycat) you would add https://status.cafe/users/thecozycat.atom into your Feeder app. Or if you wanted to subscribe to my personal blog (located at https://thecozy.cat/blog/category/personal-blog/), you would add https://thecozy.cat/blog/category/personal-blog/feed into your Feeder app. Now, you’re probably asking, how do you know which one is the right one? You will need to test each of the six options in your web browser by trying each of those options at the end of the url you want to add to your feed. If it’s wrong, you’ll likely get an error page. If it’s right, you’ll see a page with code on it OR your browser will prompt you to download a file. That’s how you know you’ve got the right one.
If by the off chance none of the six options work, I recommend reading this blog here for an easy alternative method. Scroll down to the section that reads ‘Find an RSS feed for any site by checking the source code’. Once you learn how to retrieve an RSS feed this way, you may prefer it over guessing. You will, however, likely need your PC to do this method (which, if you’re using PC, getting this Chrome extension or Firefox addon might be easier. You may also be able to download and use these extensions/addons if you’re using a Chrome or Firefox mobile browser).
Once you’ve confirmed you’ve gotten the right feed URL, paste it into the Feeder app, add the feed URL and then tap on the option that appears. You’ll then get to edit your feed. Select a title that you’ll recognize this feed by, add any tags you want to add (use tags to categorize in this app. If you’re adding a blog of recipes for example, type something like ‘recipes’ as the tag (and for future recipe feeds you add, use that same tag to group all your recipe blogs into the same feed if you want them displayed together). Once you add a tag or multiple tags, you can select some other options which you can choose according to your own personal preference. Once finished, tap the OK button at the bottom.
To see the feed you just added, tap the hamburger menu (3 horizontal lines) in the top left corner of the app. Tap the tag you just added and the feed you added will appear. Repeat this process for all feeds and categories you want to add.
As I am not an iOS or Mac user, my knowledge unfortunately is extremely limited on how to do this. However, I did do a little digging and found an app that I think would be useful for Apple users. NetNewsWire is a free, open source app that respects user privacy. It seems very straightforward to use, however, if you’d like detailed information on how to use it, refer to their official guide here.
Big Tech and RSS Restrictions
RSS sounds pretty incredible, eh? You’re probably wondering, if it’s so great, why aren’t more people aware and using it? Personally, and this is just my belief due to what I’ve witnessed with big tech censorship over the years; I believe it is by design that it is not often spoken about anymore. I think big tech (and/or “big brother”) companies want everyone to stay stuck in their own information silos, because it is much easier for them to control narratives and the information you consume there. Those who control the flow of information ultimately control the minds of the masses – always remember this. And unfortunately it is big tech websites such as Facebook that block people’s access to retrieving RSS feeds from their websites, because if they allowed you access to their RSS feeds, then they wouldn’t be able to contain you to their controlled information silo. It’s against their best interest for you to be free to get the information you like from news sources that may contradict the flow of information they endorse. So that is probably the biggest downside about RSS feeds when it comes to big tech social media platforms, is that if the information you care most about comes from your loved ones whom are contained within the walls of these big tech social platforms, you won’t be able to retrieve RSS to create feeds from your friends there.
Not all social platforms are like this, however. You will just have to experiment with retrieving the feeds from different platforms to discover which big tech platforms have blocked RSS access and which ones haven’t.
This is also where the movement to Free The Net comes in. More and more people are starting to feel the desire to break away from big tech platforms, and one way individuals like us are doing that is by creating our very own personal websites! Ultimately, this movement stems from remembering the early days of the internet, as well as the freedom of expression and creativity that came along with it. By creating our own websites and social systems, we are breaking away from big tech internet censorship and taking back our power to express ourselves as we see fit. If you’d like to learn more about this movement and how you too can break free from big tech’s grasp, click here.
I think that covers all the bases! The reason for this article, while a bit lengthy, I feel it is important to teach those who may not be tech-savvy in simple terms that are easy to understand. I think it is important for everyone to know how to use RSS and create their own feeds independent of Big Tech social media platforms. Especially in this day and age where Big Tech has so much control and grasp on the information we consume, there has never been a better time to start using RSS feeds. Aside from TheCozy.Cat being my own personal space, I also want it to double as my personal contribution to helping folks break free from their relationships with corrupt corporate entities.
If you have any questions or suggestions to add to this post that could make it even better, leave me a comment letting me know! As I receive feedback, I will make adjustments accordingly to make this article as simple as possible for those who are just getting started with RSS feeds. 🙂
And as always, if you found all this information useful, be sure to bookmark this page so you can easily find it again. Consider sharing it with your friends as well so they too can discover how to curate their own RSS feeds!