As we struggle to keep up with the overwhelming amount of information out there I am often asked is there a way people can browse that information quickly, but with the ability to focus down on issues of interest. RSS has helped to fill that gap. Consider all the categories of information that say CNN or BBC report - news, sport, entertainment, geographical and so on. Under each heading there may be subset categories and then comes all the individual pages of specific information. Unless you have unlimited time, you could never hope to browse each page in turn.
What RSS does is allow you subscribe to specific feeds that may interest you, say 'Sports News in America', or 'Politics in Germany' (or even the daily Dilbert cartoon!) and have snippets of that information provided to you in an easily digestible way. Using a suitable piece of software you can then quickly scan these snippets and punch through the full page of information should you so desire. It means you can literally scan several dozen snippets over a cup of coffee, reading in detail only the 3 or 4 that really interest you.
It is not just commercial sites too, even blogs can have RSS feeds. This Knowledgebase site has an RSS feed which is available from the Special:Recentchanges page. It is a great way of keeping up to date with wiki pages that are added or change or catching up on news from outreach teams blogging away.
RSS Reader Software
The easiest way to understand this is to try it out. JetBrains do a free RSS reader that looks exactly like Outlook. On the left are your major categories - News, Sport, Entertainment, Politics, Humour etc (displayed as your folders are in Outlook). Then, under each folder, come the contents of that category, eg NEWS: - BBC, CNN, CSPAN, Reuters etc. Browsing each of the snippets in these folders, the preview pane on the right shows you the content of each item in the feed (which relates to the previewing of actual email itself in our Outlook comparison). You can download the latest free Omea reader at http://www.jetbrains.com/omea/reader/ and any websites that have the orange 'RSS' graphic can be simply added to it if you find one you would like to try out. For a list to get you started, try these: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/help/rss/default.stm and http://tech.yahoo.com/ri. Google also offer a simple RSS reader http://www.google.com/reader/view/.