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Google Slouches Toward Yahoo!

There's something inherently cool about RSS, otherwise known as Real Simple Syndication. It's a tool that makes online browsing a lot easier, and it also cuts down on e-mail clutter. Allow me to explain.

RSS makes it possible to tag Web content for a reader, which is essentially a modified Web browser window. If you subscribe to an RSS "feed," you'll get news from your favorite sources -- including us Fools -- continually streaming into your reader. New stories pop up when they're posted. You can read them or ignore them. Your choice.

It's a novel and wonderfully useful technology that has amplified the usefulness of Web portals such as Yahoo's (Nasdaq: YHOO  ) My Yahoo! and Time Warner's (NYSE: TWX  ) My AOL. And so it can't be a surprise to anyone that Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) has now entered the game.

I tried out the new Google Reader this morning, since I thought it might be useful hands-on research for this story. It's intriguing. The interface makes it easy to scroll through lots of sources, the search function is more efficient than the one built into my Safari browser, and the clean interface makes reading content pretty simple.

But there are drawbacks. For one, the reader gave me some trouble unsubscribing from feeds I decided I didn't want. And loading content is miserably slow, even over a broadband connection. Though, to be fair, I think the sloth has more to do with the volume of feeds I'm collecting than with any fundamental technical flaw. (Still, it's worth noting that I'm one of those computing banditos who uses a Mac running Firefox and Safari.)

Overall, there's a lot to like about Google Reader. And that makes Google's strategy all the more interesting to ponder. I recently skewered the idea of Google getting into the productivity applications business, but I'm much more in favor of the company embracing the way of the portal.

The problem in competing with Microsoft's (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) Office suite is that I doubt anyone would be happy about ads in a document. But I expect ads when I'm browsing a portal. And that's why it makes sense for Google to be in that business. With instant messaging, email, search, news, and now RSS, Google now has the core elements. All that remains is putting them together. Don't expect it to be long before that happens.

Quit Googling. We've got related Foolishness right here:

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Time Warner is aMotley Fool Stock Advisorrecommendation.

Fool contributor Tim Beyers was spooked by how many of his old stories were picked up by Google's RSS reader. Yeesh. He owns none of the companies mentioned in this story. You can find out what is in his portfolio by checking Tim's Fool profile. The Motley Fool has an ironclad disclosure policy.

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