Yahoo Will Add RSS to Mail Service

The Web portal company aims to simplify the use of news feeds by installing the subscription interface in a familiar environment.

Aiming to drive RSS adoption to a broader market, Yahoo Inc. is adding an RSS reader to its forthcoming Yahoo Web mail service, currently in beta.

RSS (Really Simple Syndication) allows users to subscribe to content feeds from blogs and other Web sites to automatically receive the latest content in their area of interest, but the technology is still a little clunky for many non-technical users.

By integrating RSS into a familiar application, like Web mail, Yahoo hopes to help users become more comfortable using RSS. In the upcoming version of its AJAX (Asynchronous JavaScript and XML)-based Web mail service, a list of RSS feeds will reside in the side pane underneath a users e-mail folders, and users will be able to read, forward, print, file and save RSS-enabled content.

"One challenge with RSS adoption is that its a new behavior, and you have to know to click on the RSS button, copy the URL and paste it into a feed reader. Yahoo mail is a known environment for consumers and one theyre comfortable with so that will further both the ease of subscribing and broaden the number of subscribers," said Dick Costolo, co-founder and CEO of FeedBurner, a Chicago-based company that provides services to help 100,000 publishing companies manage their RSS feeds.

"I would expect you would see all the consumer Web mail clients add support for RSS soon," said Costolo.

Google Inc. and Microsoft Corp. would not comment on plans for future versions of their consumer Web mail offerings. But Microsoft and IBM are both adding support for RSS feeds into future versions of their corporate messaging and collaboration offerings.

"With Windows Live Mail [code-named Kahuna], Microsoft is focused on building a new Web mail service that is faster, safer and simpler to delight customers and deliver new, powerful scenarios. RSS could enable interesting personalization scenarios for customers, and we continue to investigate opportunities here but have nothing to announce at this time," said Brooke Richardson, lead product manager for MSN, in Redmond, Wash.

"Were continually exploring opportunities to improve and enhance the Gmail experience for users, but we dont have anything to announce at this time," said Eileen Rodriguez, Google spokesperson, in Mountain View, Calif.

Although RSS has yet to gain widespread adoption, some businesses are already finding RSS feeds to be a valuable tool to interact with customers.

"Without a doubt, this instantaneous, personalized communication is helping Cannondale to create brand loyalists worldwide and increase our customer base," said Janet Maurice, Webmaster, for Cannondale Bicycle Corp., in Bethel, Conn.

The company is using RSS to allow customers to subscribe to areas of interest in Cannondales blogs, such as road riding or mountain biking, and discussion topics, such as racing news, technology and training tips.

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"Because RSS remains outside the mainstream, it is still unfamiliar to many. It is, however, gaining ground very quickly and will continue to do so as the average Web surfer comes to understand what it is and how it will benefit them," said Maurice. "By adding an RSS reader to their very popular Web mail client, Yahoo is expediting that process. As a bonus to using Yahoos technology, the end user will be provided with tech support—not something currently readily available to the masses using RSS."

Yahoo on Wednesday also rolled out a new RSS feed alerts service that allows users to receive RSS feed alerts via e-mail, Yahoo Messenger instant messages, or SMS on their mobile devices, according to officials in Sunnyvale, Calif.

Editors Note: This story was updated to include user comments.

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