MSN Gets Ready for RSS Push

By Matthew Hicks  |  Posted 2005-05-19 Print this article Print

The Microsoft division plans to build syndication technology into more of its online services—and even a Windows screen saver.

NEW YORK—Vowing to make RSS friendly to the everyday Web user, an MSN executive demonstrated upcoming services on Wednesday that build syndication feeds into the messaging alerts, a Windows screen saver and Web search. During a keynote at the Syndicate Conference here, MSN Director Phil Holden said that Microsoft Corps Internet division is taking RSS (Really Simple Syndication) seriously and will integrate the technology across even more of MSNs online services throughout the year. "Our goal is in making consumer adoption and consumption of RSS easier," Holden said during an interview. "We will literally put RSS and syndication in many, many places."
MSN already had begun taking steps into RSS in recent months, joining chief portal rival Yahoo Inc. in integrating syndication technology into online services. In January, My MSN began aggregating feeds on personalized home pages, and MSN in March began quietly testing a Web-based RSS aggregator.
But more syndication moves are on MSNs horizon, and even MSNs acquisition last week of MessageCast Inc. will play a role. MSN is working to open its MSN Alerts service to a wider variety of sources through RSS. Today, the alerting service lets users receive notifications from specific sources such as MSNBC, MSNs sites and as MSN Messenger instant messages, Hotmail e-mails and mobile text messages. A feature expected to be available in about two months will allow users to also subscribe to RSS feeds, Holden said. MessageCasts technology will handle retrieving the feeds and making them compatible with MSN Alerts. The feature also ties in to MSNs own blog-publishing service, called MSN Spaces. MSN Spaces publishes RSS feeds from blogs, so its users could use the alerts to track their blog with alerts delivered on multiple devices, Holden said. MSN also is turning to the Windows desktop to aggregate RSS but not with a traditional client. It plans to release in midsummer a free software download for displaying RSS feeds in a Windows screen saver, Holden said. Along with intermittently displaying headlines from feeds, which users will subscribe to through their screen saver options, the screen saver can pull in photos from MSN Spaces using an RSS feed from a blog hosted there, said Kyle Von Haden, an MSN program manager. "This is an alternative way of using RSS," said Von Haden while demonstrating an alpha version of the screen saver. "Its valuable to the less technically inclined users, and it still harnesses the power of an emerging technology." A few weeks ago, MSN exposed an RSS feature of its Web search engine in which a search can be turned into a feed subscription and tracked and read from news readers and online aggregators. MSN had provided the capability when it relaunched MSN Search earlier this year, but it required that users insert code in URL strings. Now, a link at the bottom of search results takes users to a Web page that explains how to subscribe to the feed, hiding the XML that typically appears on feed links. Turning a search query into a feed isnt a new idea. Search engines for blogs and RSS, such as Feedster Inc., Technorati and Blogdigger, let users create RSS subscription out of searches. Yahoo also was one of the first Web search engines to include a Web pages RSS link within search results. Next Page: MSN readies third version of Start.

Matthew Hicks As an online reporter for, Matt Hicks covers the fast-changing developments in Internet technologies. His coverage includes the growing field of Web conferencing software and services. With eight years as a business and technology journalist, Matt has gained insight into the market strategies of IT vendors as well as the needs of enterprise IT managers. He joined Ziff Davis in 1999 as a staff writer for the former Strategies section of eWEEK, where he wrote in-depth features about corporate strategies for e-business and enterprise software. In 2002, he moved to the News department at the magazine as a senior writer specializing in coverage of database software and enterprise networking. Later that year Matt started a yearlong fellowship in Washington, DC, after being awarded an American Political Science Association Congressional Fellowship for Journalist. As a fellow, he spent nine months working on policy issues, including technology policy, in for a Member of the U.S. House of Representatives. He rejoined Ziff Davis in August 2003 as a reporter dedicated to online coverage for Along with Web conferencing, he follows search engines, Web browsers, speech technology and the Internet domain-naming system.

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