MSN, Yahoo Make RSS Moves

By Matthew Hicks  |  Posted 2005-03-15

MSN, Yahoo Make RSS Moves

Syndication feeds continue to gain more mainstream support as major online services experiment with ways to integrate RSS into their offerings.

Microsoft Corp.s MSN division has started an early test of a Web-based RSS (Really Simple Syndication) aggregator, while Yahoo Inc. has expanded into mobile access to the news feeds gathered on its My Yahoo personalized home page service.

Both moves signal a growing interest in the RSS news reader market that has largely been dominated by upstart companies providing both desktop aggregators and online services for reading news feeds. They also follow Ask Jeeves Inc.s purchase last month of Bloglines, one of the best known of the startup aggregation services.

By adding the ability to read news feeds, the major Internet services could help the syndication technology become more accessible to average users, many of whom who are unfamiliar with RSS and aggregators but already are using Yahoo and MSN, said Gary Stein, a senior analyst at Jupiter Research, a division of Jupitermedia Corp.

"There are some people who are actively going out and seeking RSS aggregators, but that market is limited," Stein said. "But if it comes to them as a tool theyre already using, then more people will be using RSS and reading RSS feeds and, to a point, not necessarily know theyre doing it."

RSS is a catchall term for a range of XML syndication formats used by bloggers and Web publishers to quickly share new content posted to their sites. There are multiple flavors of RSS as well as an alternative format called Atom.

MSN last week quietly began its experimental service for RSS aggregation through the Web. MSN earlier this year added RSS aggregation within its MyMSN personalized home page service, and it launched its Web search engine in February with the ability to turn a search query into RSS feeds.

Read more here about MSNs earlier RSS moves.

The latest test lets users subscribe to feeds in both the RSS and Atom formats, suggests popular feeds, and organizes them in a series of categories such as business, health, and science and technology.

The aggregator also connects into MSN Search and saves a users search history.

The service is one of two projects available through The other service lets users store bookmarks.

Next Page: Features MSN is "playing around with."

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An MSN spokesperson confirmed that the services are similar to the MSN Sandbox site for incubating possible MSN services.

"Now that MSN has developed its own search technology, the MSN Search product team is quickly developing new features," the MSN spokesperson said in an e-mail. "And this is just something the team is playing around with.

"At this point, there is no timeline or plans to formally integrate this feature, as it is still in the development/testing phase."

Yahoo was one of the first major online services to embrace RSS, offering aggregation through My Yahoo last year and providing links for RSS feeds within search results.

Last week, it took its RSS strategy into the mobile arena. Yahoo added My Yahoo headlines, including those from RSS and Atom feeds, to Yahoos mobile service.

"It seemed like a natural progression to take the power of RSS and let users take it with them and extend it beyond the desktop," said Scott Gatz, Yahoos senior director of personalization products.

Users with mobile devices supporting a WAP (Wireless Application Protocol) 2.0 or HTML browser can view their news feed subscriptions from My Yahoo. On WAP phones, users can view the first 1,000 characters of a post. On HTML-based mobile browsers, they can also click a link to the Web site or blog, Yahoo announced.

As for My Yahoo overall, it now has millions of users accessing news feeds and has increased the number of feeds in its searchable database to about 250,000, Gatz said.

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