Hey, if you haven’t already checked out the new and improved MSN Shopping take a look at http://shopping.msn.com. One of the features I’m most excited about, and not just because I worked on it, is RSS which stands for Really Simple Syndication. Basically, RSS is a way to pull timely info on the products you’re interested in into portal home pages like My MSN, online RSS aggregators like BlogLines, or desktop aggregators like RSS Bandit. Look for RSS support in many other upcoming Microsoft products like Internet Explorer 7, now in developer beta.

What can you do with RSS? I’m glad you asked. The easiest way to use RSS is to go to the MSN Shopping RSS Feeds page and pick a feed for one of the top categories that interest you. You can click the My MSN button to automatically add that feed to your My MSN home page, or you can click the XML button and copy the URL of the feed on the following page into your favorite RSS aggregator. These feeds will keep you updated with the most popular products in our top shopping categories.

The fun doesn’t stop there though. You can do a lot more powerful things with RSS. Lately I’ve been getting more and more into digital photography. My wife and I take thousands of photos of our 14 month-old baby and our two Vizslas and this sucks up a lot of space on our compact flash cards. Right now I’m looking for a good price on a 4GB compact flash card so what I did was search for “4 GB compact flash” on MSN Shopping, sorted by lowest price, clicked the XML button, and then stuck the URL for the feed into my RSS aggregator that I check out every day. Now, I get daily updates on the lowest prices for 4 GB compact flash cards. When the price drops a little further I’m going to pull the trigger and buy one. The nice thing is that because MSN Shopping compares prices across many merchants, I know I’m going to get the best price. I’m also not boxed in to the canned feeds. I can make a feed of any products I like by drilling-down into any set of products, filtering them by brand or price, and sorting them by price or rating. That’s pretty powerful stuff!

Subscribe to this example “4 GB compact flash”:
MY MSN  RSS

Now that our site has RSS I’m sure other users are going to come up with a ton of cool ways to use the feature. We’ll check out how it gets used and look to extend RSS further on the site to enable even cooler scenarios. Check it out and let me know what you think!

Ian McAllister
Program Manager
MSN Shopping