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Gmail Web Clips: More On Google's Feed Aggregator, Plus Feeds From Google News

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Checking my Gmail account today, I discovered that I'm apparently now one of the few with access to the new Gmail "web clips" feed reading feature I mentioned earlier. Here's how it works and some more details.

You'll see feed headlines shown at the top of the Gmail page, above all the messages in your Inbox, when viewing an email or anything within Gmail. Here's a screenshot:

050502-web-clips.gif

In that example, "Reuters: Oddly Enough" is the title of the feed currently being viewed. Next to it is a headline from that feed, the hyperlink taking you to the article or post. Next to that is the time the article was posted.

See the words "Web Clip" and the little < > arrows next to it? Those let you move forward or backwards through headlines in the feeds you've subscribed to.

That's it -- a rudimentary feed reader, to say the least. Unless I'm missing something, that's all you can do to view your feeds. You can't click on anything to see all headlines from a particular feed. You can't see a single page with headlines from all sources -- much less headlines and descriptions. All you can do is keep clicking the little arrows.

Odd? Yeah, but I'm sure we'll see it develop. So far, it really seems designed as a serendipitous thing. As you read different email messages, the headlines keep changing -- so it's an easy way to read mail and also perhaps spot a new news item. Or ads! That's because AdSense ads sometimes appear in that area, as well.

Google's Default & Suggested Feeds

By default, you're already subscribed to three feeds:

Why these three? All Google will say is that they were hand-picked with a focus on a good user experience and high quality content.

Want more? Use the Settings option in Gmail, then the Web Clips option. Look below your subscribed feeds, and there's an "Add more clips" link. In turn, that lets you pick from choices in News, Business, Lifestyle, Fun, Tech and Sports categories.

How did the 10 or so feeds featured in each category -- such as ABC News, NPR, Slashdot and Yahoo News: Most Emailed -- get such favored status? Again, Google said only that the choices were hand picked with a focus on user experience.

Google News Gains Feeds

By the way, Google News has some of its own feeds in there:

  • Google News - World
  • Google News - Business
  • Google News - Entertainment
  • Google News - Health
  • Google News - Sports

Yes, that's right. You can actually get Google News content through a feed without having to resort to workarounds. But bad news, non-Gmail folks. These feeds only work for those within Gmail. I can't find a published address for them. That's kept hidden within Gmail.

You can get Google News alerts for any keyword you wish to track, of course -- but that's sent via email. In contrast, Yahoo News offers actual news feeds to the public right now, as described more here: Yahoo Gains Financial Feeds; A Revisit To Yahoo News Feeds

Also noteworthy is that the feed reader functionality changes slightly when viewing a Google News feed. A new "related articles" link appears next to the posting time and the "Web Clip" text next to the arrows changes to Google News, as shown below:

050502-web-clips2.gif

Add Any Feed & When's This Coming To Everyone?

What if you want something beyond the feeds Google recommends? No problem. You can easily add any feed you like using the Custom Clips option. Just enter the URL of the feed, and away you go.

So I'm lucky in that my Gmail account is enabled -- how about everyone else? Google says it's just a small randomly selected test right now and there's no clear timing on when it will be rolled out to more people. In the meantime, the clipless such as Steve Rubel will have to read about web clips via the Google help pages that he spotted:


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