If you're like most people, your Internet time is split almost entirely between your browser and your e-mail program.
On occasion, you might download a song file using a peer-to-peer file-sharing program. Or you might also view an online video or listen to an audio clip. You might even send instant messages from time to time.
After that, though, it's back to the browser and the e-mail program.
But all that could be on the verge of changing -- especially if, like me, you're a bit of a news junkie.
That's because an emerging Internet software program makes it easy to keep up with the latest additions to your favorite news Web sites.
The software programs are known as RSS feed readers. And what is RSS? It stands for "Really Simple Syndication," which is a hot new way to distribute news headlines across the Internet.
Here's how it works:
Install an RSS reader on your computer. Then subscribe to RSS-capable news sites on the Web.
Periodically, the reader software will reach out to those sites and pull back new headlines. When you see one that interests you, click on it and the software will summon and display the rest of the story.
Now that's really simple.
It's also tremendously convenient.
Having the latest headlines automatically come to you, while they're still fresh, beats surfing through a dozen Web sites in search of the news. It also beats revisiting the same sites over and over to see if anything has changed.
And because they are customizable, RSS feeds don't force you to scan a bunch of things you don't want in order to see the things you do.
What's more, RSS isn't just for news. It also keeps track of your favorite blogs, alerting you to new entries. This feature is especially helpful for monitoring blogs that are both brilliant and irregular.
Making this all possible is an up-and-coming form of electronic text management known as XML.
Like its cousin HTML, which made the World Wide Web possible, XML is a kind of invisible coding that gives shape and structure to electronic documents. Better still, XML is infinitely flexible, allowing users to define that shape and structure as they please.
RSS is one wonderful result. Expect to see even more creative examples of XML's powers in the future.
Meanwhile, RSS feeds will give you plenty to play with. Literally hundreds of Web sites now offer RSS news feeds on virtually every subject imaginable.
So why not take an RSS feed reader for a test drive?
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