Wesley's cyber space

How to RSS

After I posted a meme on the fediverse this morning about RSS allowing you to ditch managing acounts on many websites and consolidate any content you enjoy, a few people expressed interest in how to get started with RSS. Specifically how to use it to replace popular websites. In this post I will elaborate on those topics.

What are the benefits of RSS?

Before we begin, you may be asking yourself what the benefit of even using RSS is. Although everybody's use cases are different, I believe that for most people RSS gives you a lot more control over how you consume content[1]. It is practically axiomatic to say that websites these days are focused on tricking you into keeping your eyes glued to their website. As a result, there is often more clutter trying to grab your attention than you actually need. In addition, if the website you are interacting with is slow, using it drectly could waste you a lot of time. In addition, RSS is (as far as I know) the only way to consolidate all the blogs you read, youtube channels you watch, twitter accounts you follow, etc into one screen where you can check all of them. That personal centralization really helps keep things organized, and keep you focused on what is really important. And this is all not even mentioning the ways in which this will improve your privacy and somewhat anonymize data that you send to these sites.

How do I even begin? Clients/readers!

For simplicity's sake I will use the terms client and reader interchangably in this post. At the end of the day, RSS is just a fancy way to format an XML file, which some client program can read and present in the form of a feed. So the first thing you need (assuming you don't enjoy visiting the XML files of all your favorite websites), is a client. Admittedly, I have not tried many RSS clients. The first one I ever tried was Newsboat, and I have stuck with it ever since. It is a terminal based RSS reader that is light weight, fast, and simple. The only gripe I really have with it is that the documentation can be a bit difficult to figure out, but nonetheless, it is my client of choice. If you don't like the terminal as much as I do, or just want to try out alternatives, there are plenty out there; too many to list in this article. I suggest looking around and finding one that is right for you. There really aren't many ways to go wrong with an RSS client. My only criteria might be that the client is free/open source software, fast, and heavily customizable. And I believe there are many like that. I recommend looking on the arch wiki for exmaples (even if you use a different distro, it is often informative. If not, look on your own distro's wiki, or just do a web search).

(Note: I don't use RSS on mobile, particularly because I can't find a good client that can sync with my Newsboat. If anybody has any suggestions feel free to send them my way)

Okay, I have a client. Now what?

Now that you have a client set up, you have to find RSS feeds out in the wild. This is sometimes simple, sometimes not. The easiest way is to search a webpage for the term RSS. Sometimes a link to an RSS feed only shows up as this icon. Once you have found that link, then you can copy it and put it in your RSS client as a feed. After that the client does the rest of the work in presenting (and updating) the content. Sometimes you won't find RSS anywhere on a web page, but that doesn't mean that there isn't one. Sometimes adding "/feed", "/rss", or some other suffixes to a website will bring you to their RSS feed (I think wordpress sites all use "/feed"). Sometimes it helps to just use the site's built in search option to look for it, to ask around, or to just do a web search. In rare cases, you can even find secret RSS feeds buried in the html of a website. I have found many feeds just by opening the page source and searhing for "rss", "feed", and other such terms. It is also worth note that sometimes RSS things go under the name of Atom. I am not sure what the difference is, but in my experience they are interchangeable, so searching for "atom" might help too sometimes. If you want a free feed to start with, my website here has an RSS feed that I update with new blog posts linked at the top of every page. Just grab it and pop it into your client and you will be hooked up to my articles for life (for better or for worse).

Okay, cool. But how do I use it to replace something like youtube or twitter or reddit?

Very good question! Many of the sites you use on a daily basis have hidden rss feeds or rss wrappers out there. I will go over a few popular ones. Once you see a few, you start to get a feel for these things.


Just to get this out of the way, I am not sure if there is any way to use Facebook with RSS. I don't like Facebook. I don't use it. Most of it requires an account to see anyway. If somebody has discovered a way then I will gladly update this post.


Twitter used to have built in RSS feeds, but at some point they removed them. However people have developed a number of alternatives. My favorite is Nitter. Nitter is an alternative front end to Twitter. You can't log into Twitter through it, but you can browse anonymously and without javascript. Another great feature it has is RSS feeds for any Twitter account. Now the main nitter site is nitter.net (although recently in my experience it hasn't been working), but much like the fediverse Nitter has multiple instances. The alternative I have taken to recently is nitter.cc. Whatever instance you choose, in order to get an RSS feed for a certain account simply do: "https:////rss". And with that, you have a Twitter RSS feed!


This one is fairly easy. Reddit has immense support for RSS. All you have to do is add /.rss to any page and you will get its RSS feed. If you do it on the front page you will get a feed of the front page. If you do it on a subreddit you will get a feed of that subreddit. If you do it on a post you get a feed of the post's comments. If you do it on a user you get a feed for that user. I don't use reddit very much personally, but this level of RSS support is admittedly pretty great.


There are a few Instagram accounts I am interested in. So here is a simple way to turn it into RSS. Similar to Nitter, there is an alternative Instagram front end called Bibliogram. The format is "https:///u//rss.xml"


This one is a game changer for me. YouTube also has a built in RSS feed for every channel. The format is this: "https://www.youtube.com/feeds/videos.xml?channel_id=". The channel id is a string of characters that identifies that channel. There are several ways to figure that out. One way is to use the alternative YouTube front end invidious (again with multiple instances like Nitter and Bibliogram). When viewing a channel, I believe the channel id shows up in the search bar. There may also be a way to get a feed from an invidious instance.

Having YouTube as an RSS is a game changer for me because it gives me more control over my subscriptions. I don't have to use YouTube's wonky interface. I don't have to constantly be checking YouTube and refreshing (which clears up my browser). And I have Newsboat set up to open YouTube videos in MPV (the ultimate youtube viewer btw), so I don't even have to watch them on YouTube's site.

Final thoughts & tips

I hope by this point you see how RSS can be leveraged to be superior to any other platform. Because RSS is merely a way of formatting XML there are a plthora of clients out there that can organize your feeds exactly how you want. You are no longer beholden to anybody else. You can move further towards an ideal: to be in total control of your computer.

I will leave you with a few tips for RSS.

I would be honored to be your first RSS feed. But if you aren't interested in my blog, no worries. You gotta be picky after all. Either way I hope that RSS benefits your life even half as much as it has mine. :)

If you want to comment on this post, or contact me in general, feel free to contact me on Mastodon. :)

[1] I feel like there needs to be a better way to say this than "consuming content". It sounds so lifeless.