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Microsoft MSN Gets Ready to Expand RSS Support
Contributed by: G3nu1n3, at 1/13/2005 08:00:00 PM.

Syndication feeds are gaining more mainstream support from portals and search engines as Microsoft Corp. ramps up a set of new RSS features.

The company's MSN unit is planning to release a beta of a Really Simple Syndication aggregation feature for users of its My MSN personalized home-page service, an MSN spokeswoman confirmed Wednesday.

The beta was rumored to be ready for release by late Wednesday, according to Weblog postings from MSN officials. But MSN officially declined to provide specifics other than to say it would come out "soon."

Meanwhile, MSN Search has started an experimental feature for subscribing to search queries using RSS, MSN confirmed. MSN quietly began testing the service when it released a beta of its search engine in November, but earlier this week a series of bloggers discovered the capability.

RSS is a catchall term for a range of XML syndication formats used by bloggers and Web publishers to quickly share new content posted to their sites. MSN Search is publishing its feeds in RSS 2.0, and the My MSN service will support all versions of RSS as well as the alternative Atom format.

MSN Spaces is Microsoft's blogging service, launched in beta in December, which provides RSS 2.0 support for syndicating content. The RSS aggregations support in My MSN could benefit MSN's blog service by providing another online route into the blogs.

Startup companies providing RSS aggregation services through the Web include Bloglines and NewsGator Technologies. RSS feeds also are commonly read through desktop clients called newsreaders.

The RSS feature is activated when a searcher on the recently released MSN Search beta adds a special string into the query's URL, according to a post on the MSN Search blog. Adding the new URL into an RSS newsreader then creates a subscription to the query.

RSS Feeds for Search Results

We've been experimenting with RSS Search results on our live servers and we've been found out by Greg Linden, Gary Price & many others. Good job guys! :-)

This is an experimental alpha feature that is still under development. Since this is an experiment, be aware that we will be changing it and making it better. We are planning to keep the feeds up during the experiment, but will not if they are abused. Use them from your RSS readers, but please don't recreate our search engine with them. But don't get me wrong - this is a service we want to provide and make great. Tell us how we can make it better. What should we add? An orange button? What should we subtract? We've created a wiki page, and we'll be watching your blogs and comments for your suggestions.

I'm sure most of already know how to find this feature, but just in case here are some step-by-step instructions:
- run your web or news search on the MSN Search Beta
- add the text '&format=rss' to the url
- copy the full url into your RSS Reader.

Here is a sample web search url:

Here is a sample news search url:

-- Brady Forrest, PM

The feature may be in early development, but it gives some clues into how MSN may try to differentiate its Web search engine against competitors such as Google Inc. and Yahoo. And MSN is searching for feedback.

Earlier this week, MSN also began sending more of the visitors to its main search site to its beta search site in another sign of its plans to switch from Yahoo search results to its own this year.

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