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Yahoo's New Search Touts RSS Format

When Yahoo flipped the switch on its spanking new algorithmic search function earlier this week, proponents of the RSS content syndication format had reason to smile. The mega portal's search engine, which is no longer powered by Google, is returning available RSS feeds within search results and integrating those results with its 'My Yahoo' news aggregator.

It is another thumbs up from Yahoo for RSS , the XML-based technology used by specialized news sites to push content to news aggregators. RSS (Really Simple Syndication or Rich Site Summary) is a "push" standard first developed by Netscape in the 1990s and is being hailed by publishers as potential answer to the e-mail spam nightmare.

Popularized by blogs , RSS shuttles content to newsreaders and aggregators from popular sites. Enterprises are increasingly turning to RSS as a tool to help update events listings, project updates and corporate announcements in their Web environments, while exploring other uses.

Earlier this year, Yahoo added an RSS aggregator to its 'My Yahoo' personalized service, a move that opens its pages -- for the first time -- to external, third-party links. The 'My Yahoo' feature has always integrated content (news, weather, sports scores, stock quotes) within Yahoo's own pages. Now, when users add RSS feeds to the aggregator module, the portal will link to content from outside its network. It is not clear how that fits into Yahoo's ad-driven business model, which is heavily dependent on high levels of traffic.

The company's new "Yahoo! Search Technology" (YST) has already received rave reviews from Web developers and the addition of RSS support is sure to win over fans in the content syndication industry.

The Yahoo embrace of RSS contrasts sharply with rival Google's stance. Google, through its Blogger service, has ditched RSS in favor of the newer Atom syndication format. The creation of the Atom format by developers from IBM , Google and a host of blog tools vendors has led to acrimony among software engineers.

Interestingly, Yahoo is also returning Atom feeds on its new search engine, even though those feeds are labeled RSS. A search query for Atom backer Mark Pilgrim returns the developer's Atom feed.

Jeremy Zawodny, a developer in Yahoo's platform engineering (infrastructure) group, says the company won't take sides in the "stupid debate" over Atom vs. RSS. "[I]t's probably worth pointing out that My Yahoo's RSS module also groks Atom...If users want the content and the content is available in Atom, then so be it. Tools need to aggregate Atom," Zawodny wrote in a Weblog entry.