Web feeds benefit publishers by letting them syndicate content automatically. They benefit readers who want to subscribe to timely updates from favored websites or to aggregate feeds from many sites into one place. RSS feeds can be read using software called an "RSS reader", "feed reader", or "aggregator", which can be web-based, desktop-based, mobile device or any computerized Internet-connected device. A standardized XML file format allows the information to be published once and viewed by many different programs. The user subscribes to a feed by entering the feed's URI (often referred to informally as a "URL" (uniform resource locater), although technically, those two terms are not exactly synonymous) into the reader or by clicking an RSS icon in a browser that initiates the subscription process. The RSS reader checks the user's subscribed feeds regularly for new work, downloads any updates that it finds, and provides a user interface to monitor and read the feeds.
RSS formats are specified using XML, a generic specification for the creation of data formats. Although RSS formats have evolved since March 1999, the RSS icon ("") first gained widespread use between 2005 and 2006.
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