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Google Feeds RSS to The Masses

Google seems to be a product machine these days. The latest out of Google Labs is the beta version of an RSS reader.

Google Reader was announced at the Web 2.0 Conference on Friday. The formerly stealth project is available as an early-stage product that can be downloaded from Google Labs.

The browser-based reader lets users search for content in the RSS format and then subscribe with a click; they also can enter the URL of a feed or import subscriptions from other readers.

Google already had delivered a smart RSS reader within its Sidebar application, part of Google Desktop 2. The Seattle Post Intelligencer recently reported in its blog that Google Desktop accounted for 63.4 percent of the 4.26 million times its own RSS feeds were accessed last month.

The announcement followed two other big acquisitions. On Thursday, AOL bought Weblogs, Inc., an ad-supported blog network, for an estimated $25 million. On Friday, VeriSign said that it had paid $2.3 million for Weblogs.com, the privately held ping service created by Dave Winer, one of the inventors of RSS.

That the search leader and the operator of the .com and .net top-level domains have turned their attention to RSS shows that the technology has increasing importance beyond a simple way to read blogs.

Widespread consumer adoption began in September 2004 when Yahoo began offering My Yahoo portal users the ability to easily subscribe to feeds by clicking a button.

And Microsoft's upcoming Windows Vista will embrace RSS as a way to move information between applications, as well as from the Internet to the desktop.