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THURLES -- One of the most important facets of web publishing is audience and from the looks of things, Google is considering a syndication feed that expands the audience of the earliest microcontent publishers. It looks like Google is embracing RSS (Really Simple Syndication). If Google actually continues its development aling this line, it will mark a possible return to course for the search engine company in a standards war over technology and it will affect how people read the news.

Developers at Tipperary Institute use RSS for news feeds on several campus sites. The highly effective standard lets online publishers automatically send Web content to subscribers, giving readers a powerful tool to compile news headlines on the fly from several sources at once.

Irish Typepad journalists use both RSS and Atom, a news syndication standard which launched as a challenger last year. However, RSS has always been a better option, if only because many legacy news sites used it with their Web publishing.

According to an internal Google e-mail seen by CNET, Google's management has been weighing various syndication options. A staffer wrote an internal memo that summarised technical details relating to RSS. Importantly, there's not much required to support RSS, even if it means offering both RSS and Atom as feed choices.

The Irish Learning and Technology Association uses RSS in its Yahoo Groups feed. Organisations using Google Groups can get Atom feeds, but not RSS.

In a CNET interview, Google VP Jonthan Rosenberg verified that he "did ask (a Google product manager) to develop a summary...about RSS feeds, including the ways they are produced and consumed, which platforms/devices they run on, and information on the various formats (RSS 1.0, 2.0, Atom)." The research summary would have shown a host of established sites wrapped around RSS and some outspoken developers committed to the format.

Two major versions of RSS currently exist. They are known as RDF Site Summary and Rich Site Summary. Popular news aggregators can read both feeds. This is important because an increasingly large number of Web surfers are bringing information to their desktop through aggregation, not by browsing. This is a time-saving process because it lets people set up a Web page and aggregate headlines from multiple sites, then click only on those that interest them. Publishers know this technology drives traffic to their sites. Search engine optimisers know this too and they are using microcontent feeds with RSS outputs to enhance search engine standings for their products and services. Google knows this and pays publishers of Weblogs to host targeted advertisements.

However, if Google embraces only one kind of feed, the abandoned feeds could conceivably dry up. When that happened, millions of consumers would be left in the dark with their news aggregators. This is an unnecessary and unwelcome possibility.

Posted by Bernie Goldbach on the eve of the launch of Avica in Europe, a company which may embrace RSS for its cinema feeds. x_ref26121
Stefanie Olsen and Evan Hanson -- "Google mulls RSS support"
Dave Winer -- "RSS deserves Google's respect, and it's not getting it."