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AOL gets RSS religion with My AOL...and Feedster's help

It's slightly ironic that AOL is just now introducing an RSS feed aggregator service, since it was Netscape that led development of RSS waaaay back in the day, and AOL owns Netscape. But we digress. The news tonight is that AOL has finally hopped on the RSS bandwagon, now that it's pushing it services out from behind its fabled walled garden.

The service is called My AOL, and it's not unlike My Yahoo, in concept, we're told. It's a page that users can customize with content from RSS feeds.

We haven't seen it in action yet. But AOL's Kerry Parkins said it's intended to be fast and easy to use.

"We wanted to provide a lightweight and quick rendering page that people would use as a start-page in the morning,'' Parkins, AOL's director of audience products, told us.

Like My Yahoo and Bloglines, My AOL can auto-discover feeds so that the user only has to type in a web site's URL, such as CNN.com, to subscribe to its feed.

Interestingly, the service will not require a user to log in. Instead, it will use cookies to identify users. If someone wants to use the service on another computer, they'll have a unique URL that they can use. Seems a bit clunky, but Parkins said it fits in with AOL's move away from subscription-only services.

Parkins stressed that My AOL is a beta, and that many more features are planned.

There's a Silicon Valley angle. The new service is a major coup for Feedster, the San Francisco RSS search engine. In its biggest deal to date, Feedster is providing the technology that lets My AOL users find feeds they want to subscribe to, CEO Scott Rafer tells us.

My AOL users will also be able to subscribe to searches, again using Feedster technology. So if you wanted to follow news about the Supreme Court justice confirmation, you could subscribe to a search with those terms and watch the headlines flow in automatically. AOL also tells us that Feedster is adding an "Add to My AOL'' button next to search results to make it easy to subscribe to news sources and blogs -- much like the the "Add to My Yahoo'' button that we're seeing so much of these days.

UPDATE: Russell Beattie dissects why the "RSS Home Page" concept doesn't work for him.



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