Who remembers channels and the active desktop launched as part of Microsoft Internet Explorer 4? The idea was to push web content to you rather than you having to 'go on the web' to get it for yourself. A good blog host will establish an RSS feed early on.
Although this seemed like a good idea it quickly became apparent that it wasn't going to immediately catch on for a number of reasons not least of which were the fact that the 'Active Desktop' and channels worked properly with an 'always on' internet connection whereas at the time the majority of people were still using dial up and that the technology was restricted to a Microsoft platform for both the client and the server.
Of course this isn't the first time that a good idea has failed due to poor timing or bad implementation and the fact remains that the idea of push technology for web content is a very good one. All it needs is to be cross platform compatible and allow the user a modicum of control as to what and what doesn't get delivered to them.
Enter RSS or Really Simple Syndication to give it its full name. RSS is a cross platform technology that allows web sites to make their content available through a syndicated "feed" that users can subscribe to receive. Users then view the feed with the help of an RSS reader.
Many websites publish summary level content through their RSS feeds which are constantly updated with the latest information from the site. Using RSS, users receive the most up-to-date information delivered to them in their RSS reader without having to specifically visit the site.
The orange RSS button reproduced here is the standard indicator that a site has an RSS feed available and clicking on it will usually link you direct to the feed which depending on your browser may take you to an inbuilt RSS reader or may just load the raw (XML based) feed in the browser window.
So what does this mean for readers of pitpass? Well if you download a suitable RSS reader (see below) and 'subscribe' to the pitpass newsfeed by clicking the RSS button at the top of the page next to the news ticker you will get news headlines and single line summaries delivered directly to your desktop as and when they are published from where you can click on them to open the full story in your browser. Note that the refresh interval for checking the feed for new content is configurable in most RSS readers.
As mentioned above to use an RSS feed you need an RSS reader. Three that we have tested are:
- Pluck - free plug in for Microsoft Internet Explorer
- RSS Reader - free standalone RSS reader and notifier
- Newsgator - plugin for Microsoft Outlook (free trial, $29 thereafter)
These are obviously all for Microsoft Windows, but there are readers available for all platforms - for more information check out this page on RSS Readers of every type imaginable
Note: The above links are provided here without any implied warranty and are not affiliated to pitpass in any way.
Here are a couple of comments from pitpass readers that have tried the service: