RealTime IT News

Yahoo, NewsGator Extend RSS Aggregation

By Ryan Naraine

Mega-portal Yahoo is getting closer to adding a Rich Site Summary aggregator to its My Yahoo service, a move that could provide a major boost to the XML format for content syndication.

A beta of the Yahoo RSS aggregator appeared -- and subsequently disappeared -- from the personalized 'My Yahoo' service late Wednesday, setting off buzz among RSS enthusiasts that a thumbs-up from a big-name company like Yahoo would speed up consumer adoption of the syndication format.

RSS, the "push" technology first developed by Netscape in the 1990s, has been hailed as the potential savior from the e-mail spam nightmare. Popularized by blogs , RSS, which is also nicknamed Really Simple Syndication, is used to shuttle 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.

Insiders at Yahoo confirmed the plan to add an aggregator as a module within the 'My Yahoo' section but described the public appearance of the beta Wednesday as an accident.

Officially, the company isn't saying much. In a statement issued to internetnews.com, Yahoo said it was "always pursuing new ways to improve the quality and breadth of our offerings and make them more accessible and relevant to users."

"As part of this process we need to test a variety of features and tools from time to time, but we have not made any product announcements to date. The My Yahoo team is dedicated to creating innovative applications that truly ehnance the user experience," the company added.

A full rollout of the aggregator, expected in coming months, would be the first time Yahoo opens its pages to external, third-party links. Right now, the 'My Yahoo' feature integrates content (news, weather, sports scores, stock quotes) within Yahoo's own pages.

Once users add RSS feeds to their 'My Yahoo' module, the portal would be linking out 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 its own Web traffic.

This would not be the first time Yahoo has embraced the use of RSS. In addition to RSS feeds of content from Yahoo News, the company also allows users to add custom search feeds to news aggregators.

The Yahoo move comes as research shows that consumer dependence on the Web browser has diminished significantly. A recent study from Nielsen//NetRatings found that three out of every four home and work Internet users -- a full 76 percent -- access the Internet using a non-browser based Internet application like RSS aggregators, media players, Instant Messaging and P2P applications.

Separately, Denver-based NewsGator Technologies has launched a new service that would push RSS aggregation beyond the desktop and on to HTML-enabled mobile devices.

NewsGator, which markets an enterprise-focused RSS aggregator within the Microsoft Outlook client, said the new Online Services product would allow synchronization of RSS subscriptions between multiple machines, Web browsers, POP3 e-mail clients and mobile devices like cell phones and PDAs.

NewsGator executive Greg Reinacker told internetnews.com the launch of the Online Services alongside an upgraded Outlook aggregator was a "natural progression" to push the syndication format beyond standalone applications.

Users who shell out $5.95 per month would get access to the NewsGator Online Services, which allow subscriptions on multiple platforms.

It comes with a Web-based edition, much like Mark Fletcher's http://www.bloglines.com which allows RSS feed aggregation on browsers. The Online Services also pushes feeds to non-Outlook e-mail clients like Eudora on Windows, Apple Mail and Entourage on the Mac, and any other email client that supports POP3.

Reinacker has also added premium feeds for paying subscribers with media partners including InfoWorld, Full Tilt Features (an independent comic syndicate) and Ask the Builder by Tim Carter.

The new products from NewsGator will support all syndication formats, including RSS 2.0 and newer Atom specification released with backing from heavyweights like IBM and Google.

Chris Pirillo, an RSS enthusiast who tracks the growth of the technology for Lockergnome's RSS Resource, gave the NewsGator move a big thumbs-up. "This certainly helps the evangelization of RSS. It gives users another option to consume news with this technology," Pirillo said in an interview with internetnews.com. "It's another brick in the wall to be able to offer different ways for people to use RSS without having to learn a new program," he added.

Pirillo said he was especially impressed with the feed synchronization feature in the NewsGator Online Services, which put users in control of the way RSS feeds are consumed. "Instead of a different aggregator, with different feeds all manually-added for the laptop the desktop, the home PC, the work PC and the PDA, it's all the same thing. It's beautiful," Pirillo said.