ToffelBlog

How to discover and subscribe to most RSS feeds

Published on 2020-07-04

I have heard many say that RSS Feeds are dead. This misconception comes from Google's killing of Google Reader, in an attempt to push people towards algorithmized social media. However, the standard is still widely used, albeit in a less prominent role. Which has made discoverablity a lot more harder then it used to be, therefore pushing RSS off the radars of many. With this guide I hope to help others start with RSS. First step: discovery!

At the beginning of a HTML page, you have the <head>. This part of the webpage is never rendered, but holds metadata about the page. What we are looking for is contained in the link rel tag. This tags specifies external resources used by the page, such as a stylesheet or an alternate version of the page.

It is in the 'link rel' tag of the HTML page where the link to the relevant RSS feed will be listed. Web browsers upon reading this, would display an RSS icon for the user to click. Sadly most web browsers have removed this feature.

Still it is possible to get a link to the RSS by viewing the website source, usually accessed by right clicking on the page and selecting "View Page Source". After doing so look out for somethings that looks similar to:

<link rel="alternate" type="application/rss+xml" title="RSS" href="rss">

Pay close attention to the type= field as different formats of RSS exist, examples of the MIME type you will see are:

The href="" field will contain a link to the feed, which can be copied and pasted into your feed reader. Some HTML can be a pain to read, don't forget that you can use Ctrl+F to search for any of the MIME types listed above.

This is hard work! Thankfully we can use browser extensions to add the once standard feature back. Firefox has Awesome RSS, It will reveal RSS links in the URL bar. For Chrome I could only find RSS Feed Reader, this extension is linked with the feeder.co online service, and is proprietary.

Common Feed Links for Blogs

Due to the common naming scheme employed by CMS software (such as WordPress) you could guess the feed's URL based on common names for the feed:

exampleblog.com/feed/
exampleblog.com/feed.xml/
exampleblog.com/feed.atom/
exampleblog.com/rss/
exampleblog.com/rss.xml/
exampleblog.com/atom.xml

The wordpress.org documentation provides more examples for finding the feed on Wordpress-based blogs:

https://example.com/?feed=rss
https://example.com/?feed=rss2
https://example.com/?feed=rdf
https://example.com/?feed=atom
http://example.com/feed/
http://example.com/feed/rss/
http://example.com/feed/rss2/
http://example.com/feed/rdf/
http://example.com/feed/atom/

Podcasts

Podcasts are built on RSS, and it's still the most common distribution technology. A feature of RSS is used that will embed a media file (like an MP3) into each entry in the feed. The users podcatcher program will then download these and play them back.

The feed links can sometimes be obscured, with many podcasts preferring to link to iTunes, Google Play etc.

In some cases the website in kind enough to provide a direct RSS link on the official website. Other time I found the link in the sites metadata (refer above), just watch out since sometimes the links found here are blog-styled links and won't work properly in a podcatcher.

If the podcast you are after is being stubborn with the link. You may need to do some further digging into podcast directories. The online player.fm will provide a feed link right on the podcast's page. gpodder.net is also good if you are after a more "open" directory, just be warned I have found many podcasts on gpodder to have old links.

YouTube

YouTube still allows you to follow channels via RSS naively. Just take the URL listed below and then add the channel's ID after the equals sign:

https://www.youtube.com/feeds/videos.xml?channel_id=

In some cases the channel id can be found in the URL of the channel (/channel/$CHANNEL_ID), but on older style URL's (/user/$USERNAME) I have found that navigating to the channel via the watch page gives out the newer style URL.

I would also like to point out Invidious, an open-source frontend to YouTube, creates and links the RSS feed on the channels page.

Twitter

Twitter has removed the RSS feed feature. I recommend using the open-source frontend nitter which creates RSS feeds, and links them on the profile page.

Anything else?

Checkout RSS-bridge. This self-hosted open-source service can make an RSS out of many websites. Have not used, but heard good things from people I trust.

If self-hosting isn't something you want to do, then a variety of online services can do the same. I have not used them though and cannot make any recommendations here.

Summary

In summary, RSS is still useful, and the feeds are still out there if you know where to look.

Most websites will list the feed in the HTML metadata, and if not, there are still ways to locate it. I also touched on services that can create a feed for popular sites, where one doesn't exist. A quick internet search should bring up some others if you need another popular social media site in your reader.

If the only question you have left is what reader to use? Then I would suggest checking out any "Top 10" article and use AlternativeTo and Slant.co for the community opinion. You can get local readers or internet-based ones and anything in between for nearly any platform.

Happy Reading!