A recent article in the Wall Street Journal by Walter Mossberg about how to use alerts to keep track of the Web dropped something of a bombshell for those of us who use Google Alerts every day. According to Mossberg, Google Alerts will begin adding RSS alerts in addition to email ones “in about a month”.
Google Alerts, which is a service that sends out notices when content carrying the alert search term appears on the Web, currently only sends out its alerts via email. It is commonly used for vanity searches, for keeping on top of who mentions a person or site, and for keeping track of content, either through searches for statistically improbable phrases or digital fingerprints.
What this means to you will probably depend on how heavily you use RSS and how much use you make of Google Alerts. If you are not currently using Google Alerts and want to get started, I’ve created a screencast to help you understand the basics.
Obviously, I’ll have more to say on this once the new feature is made public.
However, at this time, I don’t see myself making heavy use of the RSS feature. I literally have years of experience meshing Google Alerts with email filters and creating a workflow around it. Though such a system could be moved to RSS easily, I don’t see how much is gained in my case.
Clearly though, this feature is not for people like myself and other current heavy users of Google Alerts, instead, it is for those who don’t because they can’t get the alerts in the format they want. This will change that and let them receive their alerts in a variety of places including their RSS reader, their Google home page and through a variety of mashup services.
Needless to say, this opens up a lot of new doors for Google Alerts but, personally, I’m just happy to hear that the service is still receiving some attention. After being so long without a significant upgrade, it is nice to see that Google is still working on their Google Alerts product.