Posted by: gowrisivaprasad | October 31, 2007

What is this “feed” business?

If you are new to blogs and someone you know sends you a link to his blog, you go to the page and read it the first time. Then you might be wondering “how do I know when is this fellow going to write again? Will he send me a mail everytime he writes an entry or should I visit the site everyday to see if he has written anything”. Not really. You do not need to go to their website everyday (go visit if you want to), nor do they need to email you everytime.

This is where “feeds” come in. Its like this: you get snail mail everyday that the mailman (or postman, depending on which part of the world you are reading this) puts it into your mailbox. Imagine you had a helper who goes to the mailbo, gets all the posts of the day and then drops it in your table. All you got to do is go to your table whenever you want and then read the posts. Blog Feeds are the same thing. Each blog generates “something” that is available to your helper to “go get”. In the blog world, the table where you read your posts is a piece of software called “feed reader”, which essentially goes and gets all the posts that you are interested in and keeps it ready for you to read. So all you got to do is setup the reader once (like telling your helper to get the posts from a particular mailbox) and then blog entries start showing up in the feed reader. If you wanted to read multiple blogs (like to multiple mailboxes where you might get snail mail), all you do is setup all of them in your feedreader (akin to asking your helper to get posts from multiple mailboxes and putting them all on a single table).

There are many feedreader software, mainly in two types. Those that you have to install in your computer and the other which are just websites (which you visit to read all the blogs you are interested in). The browser based ones are the easiest to use for a beginner – no software to buy, install or maintain. There are two great browser based feedreaders – Bloglines and Google Reader. The sites are pretty easy to use. You need an email account to setup bloglines, and you need a gmail or Google account for setting up Google Reader.

BBC has a nice introductory article on feeds and reading news using feeds. You can read it here.

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