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10 free ways to keep track of changes to any website, without an RSS reader

Do you need to know about a new product release the minute it happens? Are you watching Amazon price changes like a hawk? Is your F5 key worn out from overuse? You might want to look into some automatic ways to monitor website changes. I know RSS is the trendy way to keep up with new posts on websites -- I use it all the time -- but some sites don't offer RSS feeds, and some people either don't know how to use RSS or don't like it.

That's where site monitoring services come in. Sure, it might be a little 2005, but it can still help you get the concert tickets you want as soon as they go on sale. Here are 10 alternative ways to track changes to a website. They're all free, and they all work whether the site you're monitoring has an RSS feed or not.


Check4Change

If you're running Firefox, you can install this add-on to periodically check a website for changes. The frequency of the checks is up to you. The major problem with Check4Change is that you have to keep the site you want to monitor open in your browser. You can tell Check4Change to use a pop-up, or an alert sound to notify you, or just bring the browser window to the front.

Update Scanner

Update Scanner is a competing Firefox option that places an icon in the status bar. Click to pop up a panel listing all the sites you're monitoring, so you can visit the sites, manually check them for changes, or set preferences. Update Scanner checks once a day by default, but you can set an interval as short as 5 minutes.

Changedetection.com is a web-based service that monitors any URL you give it, and sends updates to an email address you specify. New text is highlighted, and old text is struck through, making it easy to see what's changed and what used to be there. Changedetection.com is perhaps the oldest option on this list. It started in 1999.


WatchThatPage


Watch that page is another web-based product, similar to Changedetection.com. It adds the option of viewing site changes on the web instead of receiving updates by email.


Google Reader
(now with custom feeds!)

Now that Google Reader has added custom feeds, you can subscribe to a site's updates even if it doesn't have RSS feeds set up. This works more like a change-tracking service than a traditional RSS subscription, so I thought it was worth putting on the list.

URLy Warning

Here's a Windows desktop option for watching webpages. You can monitor multiple URLs in the same window, and quickly get a heads-up on any changes without using email. Changes are viewable from within the app, and you can see when URLy Warning last checked each URL.


WebMon


Another Windows site checker. The advantage of WebMon is that you can specify which elements of a website you want to monitor, which keeps your from getting alerts for changes you don't care about. Just go to "specify content to check," and paste in the HTML from the part of the website you'd like to monitor.


Changes Meter

Changes Meter is an OS X desktop option for monitoring websites. Unlike the Windows apps I just mentioned, it doesn't show you the specific changes to the sites you choose. It does tell you when they're updated, though, which might be good enough when you're talking about eBay options or the latest update to the Apple Store. It's also compatible with Growl, so you can get a pop-up alert as soon as a change occurs.


ChangeAlarm

ChangeAlarm is another web-based option, but it's geared toward webmasters. You can add a Change Alarm widget to your site, allowing users to sign up for email updates that let them know when you make changes. Personally, I'd rather just offer RSS feeds, but this might be a good option if you have a significant number of visitors who don't use RSS.


Page2RSS
plus FeedMyInbox

Page2RSS creates an RSS feed of changes to a webpage, and FeedMyInbox lets you skip the RSS reader and get updates by email instead. Together, they make a pretty decent page-monitoring solution. This won't work for a lot of pages at once, though, because FeedMyInbox is limited to 5 feeds per free account.

Tags: changes, features, monitor, site monitoring, SiteMonitoring, tracking, updates, watch

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