Ashley Bowers


What do aggregators do?

Aggregators reduce the time and effort needed to regularly check websites of interest for updates, creating a unique information space or "personal newspaper." An aggregator is able to subscribe to a feed, check for new content at user-determined intervals, and retrieve the content. The content is sometimes described as being "pulled" to the subscriber, as opposed to "pushed" with email or IM. Unlike recipients of some "pushed" information, the aggregator user can easily unsubscribe from a feed.

Aggregator features are gradually being built into portal sites such as My Yahoo! and Google; Web browsers such as Mozilla Firefox, Safari, Opera; e-mail programs like Mozilla Thunderbird; and other applications, including Apple's iTunes, which serves as a podcast aggregator.

The aggregator provides a consolidated view of the content in a single browser display or desktop application. Such applications are also referred to as RSS readers, feed readers, feed aggregators or news readers, although in Internet communication, the last of these terms was first used for programs that read Usenet newsgroups.

A website may incorporate aggregator features by republishing syndicated content on one or more of its pages. Aggregator features also may be incorporated in other client software, including Web browsers, e-mail clients, weblog creation programs, or media player programs. Devices such as mobile phones or Tivo video recorders (already aggregating television programs) may incorporate XML aggregators.

The syndicated content an aggregator will retrieve and interpret is usually supplied in the form of RSS or other XML-formatted data, such as RDF/XML or Atom.


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