RSS is a great technology for receiving news and updates but not every site implements a feed. Even those that do still rely on eager content authors to publish up-to-date information.
I’ve been using WatchThatPage.com for many years. Despite the antiquated interface, it’s an invaluable free tool which monitors any number of web pages and sends you an email when any URL has updated content. It can be useful when checking for software updates or even monitoring unauthorized page changes.
A similar feature has now been added to Google Reader — the company’s online RSS client. I’ve never been a huge fan of the application and prefer Bloglines, but this is a useful facility which could tempt me to switch.
To monitor any web page:
1. Click the Add Subscription button and enter a URL. In this case, I’ve chosen the Notepad++ download page. Click Add and Google will check the page for existing feeds.
2. Google Reader will tell you that no feeds could be found and offer to create a notifications feed for you. Click Create a feed to continue.
3. Google Reader will create the new subscription and notify you whenever the content changes on the target page.
You can rename the feed by clicking the Feed settings button or Manage subscriptions at the bottom-left.
However, perhaps the most useful facility is that the update alerts are now available as their own RSS feed! Click show details to view the Feed URL. The feed for the Notepad++ example above can be accessed from:
You can therefore subscribe to this feed in any other RSS client such as Bloglines, a desktop widget, Microsoft Outlook 2007, Opera, Firefox Live Bookmarks, etc.
Would you find this feature useful? Where would you use it?
Craig is a freelance UK web consultant who built his first page for IE2.0 in 1995. Since that time he's been advocating standards, accessibility, and best-practice HTML5 techniques. He's created enterprise specifications, websites and online applications for companies and organisations including the UK Parliament, the European Parliament, the Department of Energy & Climate Change, Microsoft, and more. He's written more than 1,000 articles for SitePoint and you can find him @craigbuckler.
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