Yahoo! now! sucks! - official

Feeds at speed

All good technology eventually becomes invisible, and Yahoo! has taken a step to making the much-hyped RSS push protocol disappear into its portal. The web giant previewed a new version of its My Yahoo! offering yesterday.

Although there are only 42 Segway-owning, power-blogging web designers in the world who care about RSS, tens of millions of normal people use Yahoo! and will discover that in place of the previously limited selection of information feeds, you can add from thousands of RSS feeds. Existing choices and color schemes are maintained. More significantly still, real world businesses such as shops, travel providers and cinemas could start to deliver information in the lightweight format and cut back on their expensive websites.

(How many Macromedia Flash pages do you need to navigate through to find out what's on at the pictures? Or find out the time of the next train?)

RSS began life at Netscape as its answer to the oversold 'push' hype of 1996. It's really more accurate to call it a 'suck' technology, because the client side initiates the transaction and governs how often data is pulled in. And also because it sucks in other ways. RSS has been dogged by splits and incompatibilities, with at least nine different versions; leading to the development of a tenth, Atom. And more recently serious doubts were cast over whether the protocol could scale. Microsoft throttled back its feeds after being swamped by requests from frequently-polling clients, which didn't check for redundancy. So if Microsoft couldn't afford to host RSS feeds, who could?

For Yahoo!, the migration allows it to become a heavyweight news aggregator. For pay-for RSS aggregator websites and services, the future looks grim. But this, like the fat client desktop RSS reader, was a business category that was always going to have a very short shelf life. Mozilla, Opera and Safari browsers are folding RSS feeds into the browser themselves, and it's only logical that they end up in a web page. Yahoo! has simply shown how it should be done. It's now almost completely invisible. ®

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