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eCLIPS; Introducing the browsing browser.

Byline: Giles Turnbull

THE problem with browsing the web is that there's so much rubbish toavoidon your search for something useful. And then, having found your way past all the rubbish to something that you think is genuinely interesting, there's the task of keeping track of it.

Until quite recently, doing so has been a potentially troublesome task. Short of storing the page's location in your bookmarks list and revisiting it frequently, there was no easy way to check for changes. These days,however, that need not be such a problem. A simple technology called Rich Site Summary (or RSS) makes it very easy to keep track of interesting websites. In fact, using RSScan completely change the way you browse the web. It's possible to browse and read pages through a specialised piece of software-called, simply,an RSS reader -without even starting up a web browser. And sinceRSSis a very low bandwidth system, predominantly text,and is (to date) advertisement-free, browsing the web this way canbeextremely fast and satisfying for people fed up with the endless bombardment of pop-up ads and annoying animated banners. An RSSfeed is afile,generated automatically by the website you're monitoring. If you know the location or URL of that feed, you can tell your RSS reading software to ``subscribe'' to it -once it knows where to look for the file,it will keep checking it for changes every time you start the software.

Once you've collected RSSfeed URLs for a couple of dozen of your favourite sites, you can find yourself spending a lot of time with your RSS reader.

It's faster than browsing the web normally. As soon as you start up your RSS reader,it will check each of the feeds you are subscribed to and download everything that's changed since the last time you checked. Then you can flick from one feed to the next, without the waiting involved with normal web browsing. Things are quicker because your RSS reader is only downloading small amounts of data. The whole point of Rich Site Summary is that it contains a summary of the original web page. Usually it comprises a title, a URL, and a short summary of the page.

Sometimes,people put the entire page contents in the feed,ditching the idea of a summary altogether. Big web companies are also cottoning on to the idea of drawing in readers through RSS feeds.

The BBC,for example,now has dozens of feeds for its on line news services,allowing you to monitor one particular news subject that interests you, such as news from India or the technology headlines. Elsewhere,Chr is Pirillo has created a free service to help people create their own customised RSS feeds for monitoring various different parts of the Amazon. com site ( RSS sounds more complicated than it really is. While there is a lot of (sometimes heated) discussion in the tech community about how RSS should work and develop in future,all you really need to know is how to make it work for you. The only way to appreciate its beauty is to try it out,and thankfully that's very easy to do. Users of Apple Macs should download the superb NetNewsWire Lite,a free RSS reader that works beautifully with Mac OS X (see comes with a huge list of feeds built-in, so you can start web browsing immediately. On Windows, there's the equally impressive Amphetadesk application ( which works slightly differently.

When you start the program,it downloads all the feeds required, then saves the information as a customised web page which opens in your web browser.

Feedreader ( another good choice for Windows users.


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Copyright 2003 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Jul 14, 2003
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