Microsoft, AOL Announce RSS Deals

Following in the footsteps of Google and Yahoo, America Online and Microsoft debuted personalization features focused on RSS feeds and search options this week.

AOL today announces the beta release of My AOL, a personalized home page on that gives users quick access to RSS feeds and the “flexibility to access and use the portal, based on their specific needs and interests,” according to AOL.

Also this week, MSN quietly launched a beta version of its MSN Screen Saver, which displays personalized content from the Web including a user's favorite RSS feeds, unread Hotmail messages and information from the user's hard drive.

Google's “Personalize Your Google Home Page” option and Yahoo's My Yahoo already offer users similar ways to organize their personal search preferences, including RSS feeds.

AOL worked with Feedster, San Francisco, an RSS search engine, to let My AOL users search and subscribe to publisher-specific and topic-based feeds.

“My AOL provides a convenient solution for a usually time-consuming ritual — visiting multiple Web sites and blogs multiple times each day to catch up on news,” said Kerry Parkins, director of audience products at America Online.

In addition, targeted messages are included in the RSS feeds, Feedster president/CEO Scott Rafer said.

“When you subscribe to something, we put just the right marketing message in with the information,” he said.

Meanwhile, MSN Screen Saver users can receive personalized news via RSS feeds, from MSN's feeds or others across the Web.

“Mouse over headlines to see more info or click to read the full story,” Omer Khan, group manager of MSN Portal, wrote in an MSN blog about the new Screen Saver.

The Screen Saver lets users use MSN Search directly from the screensaver. It also integrates MSN Messenger and Hotmail so users can view the number of unread e-mails and Messenger windows that are open.

“We're really excited about the buzz that the MSN Screen Saver has created,” Khan wrote. “We've already seen a large number of downloads — mainly by word of mouth/blogs.”

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