Yahoo Inc. is adding an RSS reader to its new Web mail service, which is in test, or beta, version and available to a limited number of users. The Sunnyvale, California company plans to announce the new feature on Wednesday.
Yahoo’s new Web mail service, which has a radically redesigned user interface that works more like a typical desktop e-mail application, has been in beta testing since September.
The RSS reader will not be added to Yahoo’s current Web mail service, which will be replaced at an unspecified time with the new service, company executives said. The company wouldn’t say how many users are testing the new Web mail service, so it’s impossible to establish how many people will get access to the new RSS (Really Simple Syndication) reader on Wednesday. There is no RSS functionality right now in the Yahoo Mail, which is used by the vast majority of Yahoo’s users.
RSS technology lets users subscribe to content feeds from their favorite Web sites and have them delivered to RSS readers such as Ask Jeeves Inc.’s Bloglines.
RSS feeds have become very popular because they save users from having to visit Web sites to find out if new content has been posted to them. As RSS feeds flow into an RSS reader, a user sees summaries or the full text of postings.
E-mail has become the hub of people’s Internet activities, so it makes sense to embed an RSS reader into Yahoo’s new Web mail service, said Ethan Diamond, Yahoo Mail’s director of product development.
The RSS reader included with Yahoo’s beta Web mail service is designed to appeal to the average RSS user, which according to Yahoo’s internal research subscribes to about six or seven feeds.
Later, Yahoo plans to enhance the Yahoo Mail RSS reader with features such as the ability to organize feeds into sub-folders that will appeal to heavy RSS users who subscribe to many feeds, Diamond said.
The Web mail beta’s RSS reader is a “full post” reader, meaning it can deliver the full-text of a Web posting, including pictures, said Scott Gatz, Yahoo’s director of personalization products.
Yahoo’s move is one of the first major steps in the industry to make RSS accessible to the mass market, said Allen Weiner, a Gartner Inc. analyst.
“It brings RSS to the masses and it lets people take advantage of the strength of RSS as a content distribution platform without them having to even know what RSS stands for,” Weiner said. “It behooves Yahoo to get this out to all Yahoo Mail users pretty quickly.”
Also on Wednesday, Yahoo plans to announce that its Yahoo Alerts service can now notify users when an RSS feed they subscribe to has been updated.
Yahoo Alerts can notify users via e-mail, the Yahoo Messenger instant messaging service or text messages sent to mobile devices.