The wire service borrows its name from the Southern African Meerkats, members of the mongoose family. Meerkats, being low on the food chain, have to be careful when going about their daily business -- someone always stands guard, scanning the horizon for anything that moves. "In the technology community, we're like meerkats ourselves, trying to take in everything about technology that might be important," explained O'Reilly Network publisher Dale Dougherty.
Meerkat solves a common problem: how to notice when something has changed on a Web site. This can be a difficult task for developers who want to stay on top of many technologies. With Meerkat, it's possible to know what's been published in the last hour, day, or month on a variety of sites. "Meerkat is an editorial tool that we use at the O'Reilly Network to monitor the flow of information in technical communities," said Dougherty. "It was so exciting that we decided to open it to users."
Tara Calishain is editor/publisher of ResearchBuzz, an online newsletter for Net research. Calishain describes Meerkat's value: "It aggregates so much information in one source, and it's so customizable. It's also very specific; when you have a new search engine, you can't tell when something has been changed. But with Meerkat, you can."
Meerkat is an aggregator of information from sites that support RSS (Rich Site Summary), an XML format that supplies the title, description and URL for stories created on the site. RSS was developed by Netscape in 1999 as a way of drawing in content from the Web for use in its My Netscape Network portal. It was later extended by Netscape and Dave Winer of Userland. RSS is becoming increasingly popular as technology sites share headlines with other sites to draw traffic, and use RSS feeds to link to related information.
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