Curated by: Luigi Canali De Rossi
 


Monday, May 28, 2007

Search RSS Newsfeeds With MillionRSS

RSS newsfeeds have become part of the mainstay of the new web. But where do you go when you want to search through the thousands upon thousands on offer? A new project has set itself the ambitious target of gathering no less than one million feeds together for you to search through. Here's how:

millionrss.jpg

MillionRSS, which originally launched in February, is that project and its simple goal has inspired hundreds of people to get involved. The website essentially offers a great, free way to promote your web content to interested readers, while contributing to a vast library of RSS news feeds freely accessible to anyone with a web connection.

Bloggers benefit by tapping into the buzz around the project, and having well-targeted traffic driven to their posts from specific categories within the MillionRSS framework. And MillionRSS benefits by growing in stature as a resource for those looking for fresh web content.

But in the short life of the project so far, MillionRSS has already garnered some controversy, and undergone a change in direction. For while upon its initial release, and until recently, the site offered full and partial feeds that viewers could read directly from the MillionRSS website, issues over intellectual property raised by users have led to a change in tack. Visit MillionRSS today, and you will find that each blog listed has a description, an image and a collection of post titles, but if you want to read their actual content, you are going to have to click through to the source.

This change will be welcomed by some, and considered inconvenient by others. Nevertheless, it does not detract greatly from what is fast becoming a definitive source of the latest RSS feeds live on the web.

In this review of the service I look at:

  • The idea behind the project
  • Why RSS is so important, and RSS directories can make your life easier
  • The main features of MillionRSS
  • The issue of blog scraping raised early on in MillionRSS lifespan

MillionRSS - Overview

millionrsslogo.jpg

MillionRSS is an ambitious project, and has already seen a great deal of success along the way to its end target of busting the one million feed mark. At the time of writing there are some 124,607 feeds gathered in the directory, and it doesn't look like things are slowing down.

MillionRSS is described by its creator as:

''...a project to collect over 1,000,000 RSS feeds that are out there in the wild west of what we know as 'the blogosphere'. We offer free submission for anyone to easily send us their RSS feed details (along with their site description and branding information). In turn, we will syndicate your feed for our readers and will give you a permanent link from our site. That's it, pretty simple.''

It is this combination of simplicity and ambition that makes the project jump out at you, just as the boldly conceived Million Dollar Homepage did before it. The big difference is that MillionRSS is more than just a self-serving money spinner. In fact it has the potential to be become a very useful resource to both bloggers seeking to promote their content, and consumers hoping to find fresh, quality feeds in the ocean of garbage and detritus littering an increasingly overpopulated web.

Everybody wins - bloggers get exposure, users find new feeds, and MillionRSS gets a reputation for itself, and some nice ad revenues on the side.

But what's so important about RSS, and why do we need another directory to help us sort through the feeds available?



Why RSS?

whyrss.jpg
Photo credit: Alex Kalmbach

RSS has changed the way that a lot of us engage with the web. Rather than having to go and manually check page after page of web content to see if there have been any updates or new blog posts, RSS makes it possible for new content to come after you.

Using a news aggregator like Google Reader you can subscribe to as many website RSS feeds as you like. These feeds then bring you summaries of any new content created on your favorite websites, giving you the chance to go and check them out for yourself.

The end result is a lot of saved time and the ability to almost instantaneously view a snapshot of the parts of the web that interest you, without having to go and explore them afresh each and every time. For an excellent three minute video introduction to how it works, and what makes it so cool, check out Lee Lefever's down-to-earth summary.

Once you get familiar with RSS - and it really isn't rocket science - you'll be amazed how many functions it can serve. Robin Good notes, in his post on What you can do with RSS that the possibilities include:

  • Monitoring news and online newsgroups
  • Checking the weather and classified ads
  • Tapping into your friends' hot online discoveries
  • Watching auctions, and finding bargains
  • Creating custom, niche-targeted News Radars for your website visitors


Of course the list could go on almost ad infinitum, as RSS makes it possible to stay on top of the very freshest information as it flows right into your content aggregator, like emails to your inbox.

Directories like MillionRSS make the process of finding relevant, personalized content for personal or professional use a whole lot easier than seeking out suitable websites by web-surfing and search engines alone.

Certainly, MillionRSS isn't alone in seeking to fulfill this function, and should you want to check out some of the alternatives you might want to pay a visit to Robin Good's regularly update RSS Top 55.



MillionRSS - Main Features

MillionRSS is very simple to use and navigate, whether you want to submit your own feed to the directory, or check out those submitted by others.

The easiest way to find content is by running a keyword search, using the prominently placed search-bar at the top of the screen:

0searchfeeds.jpg

This is a great way of narrowing down feeds if you have a very clear idea of a particular theme, subject or even event that you want to find related feeds for.

However, if you are less certain it is possible to browse through content easily by category. The categories are very diverse, and cover a range of subcategories. While there is a strong emphasis on blogs and blogging, as is also the case in the blogosphere itself, you will find content that ranges from baby blogs to technology, academia to sports.

Here are just a small handful of the offerings spanning the world of blogging:

00categories.jpg

Once you have made your category selection, content is browsed based on popularity, as voted for by other site visitors. As you scroll through the feeds available, you can instantly subscribe to any that take your interest by clicking on a large blue RSS icon. This will open the feed in a new window, effectively allowing you to subscribe with a single click.

0list.jpg

Should you wish to check out a little more in the way of details before committing to subscription, clicking on the name of the blog will take you through to a summary of its content, along with a list of recent post titles in reverse chronological order. If you then decide to read those posts rather than subscribe, clicking on the individual titles will link you back to the original blog. This is a recent change, replacing a previous feature that allowed you to read the content from within MillionRSS, and was made in response to complaints surrounding intellectual property issues, which I take a look at a bit further in the next section.

If you particularly enjoy a feed and want to see it gain in popularity, you can click on the Digg-like 'Bump it!' button, which will add one to the current score of the feed. The feed with the highest score appears first in the last, and the lowest last. This applies within each separate category, as well as the 'all categories' section on the MillionRSS homepage.

0bumpfeeds.jpg

That aside, you can click through to a section to add your feed to the directory, learn about RSS, find link codes for promoting the site on your blog, or provide feedback, making MillionRSS a very streamlined, focused interface intent on fulfilling a simple, but effective purpose. This simplicity works for me, and I am glad that things haven't been overly complicated. What MillionRSS does, it does well.



RSS, Scraping and Intellectual Property

0scrapingcontent.jpg
Photo credit: Marc Dietrich

One recent change in the MillionRSS website is a shift away from displaying the latest posts from a feed directly within the interface. While initially it was possible to head over to MillionRSS, run a search for feeds, check out the blogs from the search results, and even read them there and then, things have since changed.

Now, if you find a blog that looks interesting through the MillionRSS directory, you are presented with a description, image and a list of the most recent post titles only. Clicking on these titles will take the reader through to the original website to access the content gathered in the feed.

Some are likely to find this a little inconvenient, given that it is obviously easier to read everything from one single destination or application than it is to have multiple windows open on your screen. Without so much as content summaries for posts, readers are left at the mercy of blog authors' titling skills. While good bloggers generally pay attention to making their titles as descriptive as possible, not everyone takes this approach, which can make for an element of pot-luck being involved when selecting something to read.

Nevertheless, the main reason that this approach has been taken is as a response to criticisms of 'blog scraping, considered by many to be a breach of intellectual property.

Professional scrapers tap into the content of other blogs, and republish them in their entirety elsewhere, making a profit from advertising-revenues without having to write a thing. This is a growing problem that has effected this very blog. You may even be reading this on a site other than Master New Media, unaware that this is where the content originated.

While personally I do not see what MillionRSS was doing originally as scraping, any more than Google blog search could be accused of scraping, I can see the incentive of bloggers to crack down on this kind of activity. If a reader views your content on MillionRSS, and then clicks on one of their ads as a consequence, you have effectively lost that ad revenue on your own website. For those trying to make a living from their writing, this can be a frustrating experience.

However, I would argue that quality content found through MillionRSS would ultimately lead to RSS subscriptions, and direct future contact with the source blog, MillionRSS perhaps having profited from the introduction on a single occasion.

Whichever way you look at it, intellectual property issues are a minefield in the age of easy digital duplication.



Conclusions

Whether you are a web-surfer, news professional, PR-agent or blogger MillionRSS might very well make for a useful addition to your online toolbox.

Anyone that has a website with an RSS feed - and if you don't, you really should - will benefit from having targeted traffic driven to them from the MillionRSS search directory. Users access your content by checking within categories they are interested in, or else using a keyword search tool. This means that the people that access your content via your feed are likely to be interested in what you have to offer from the outset.

From the end-user perspective MillionRSS is a goldmine of content, and whether you are looking for web feeds for professional or personal reasons, you will manage to find endless hundreds of relevant blog posts in your area of interest. Categories span from baby blogs through to wikis, and from academics to women and blogging.

At the time of writing the project has a long way to go before it arrives at its final destination of a million feeds, but given that it has only been up and running since February and has already managed to gather well over a hundred thousand, the chances look good. Regardless of whether a million RSS feeds are ever collected there, you are likely to be spoilt for choice in all but the most obscure of content niches.

MillionRSS is a great addition to the existing range of RSS directories, and is well worth checking out if you are looking to find new content, or promote your blog or website to a wider audience for free.



Additional Resources

If you would like to learn more about MillionRSS, you might like to check out the following links:




Originally written by Michael Pick for Master New Media and originally published as: "RSS Newsfeeds Search Gets Ambitious: MillionRSS"

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Readers' Comments    
2007-05-28 19:08:40

Michael Pick

Hi Bruce,

Thanks for your comments. I think MillionRSS is relatively limited in its capacity to do very much with the feeds in its directory, beyond locating them in the first place, which seems to be its main focus.

Your best bet might be to take the feeds you have located and bring them into Google Reader, or for more advanced features MySyndicaat.com, both of which make it easy to splice your feeds into a master feed, or 'river of news'.

There are quite a few services that will combine this locating *and* gathering function - take a look at Robin's RSS Top 55 for a good selection of alternatives (http://www.masternewmedia.org/rss/top55/).

Thanks,

Michael



2007-05-28 15:53:29

Bruce Winter

Spent the last 30 minutes trying out Million Feeds. Found it cumbersome to search through. Consistently got the queued for error in the snap on preview.

Never actually did get any of of the previews to come up after trying several in different categories.

On the plus side found a few feeds that could be worth creating a master feeds with. However there doesn't seem to be any expedient, quick way to create a master feed list of say a dozen feeds in a specific niche. Will play around a little more to see if that is possible.



 
posted by Michael Pick on Monday, May 28 2007, updated on Friday, February 26 2010


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