The Google Reader Update

by Krishna on November 3, 2011

Many fans of Google Reader (the online RSS client) are up in arms over the recent changes. In my opinion, the outrage is a little overblown. First off, if you are reading this on a desktop, you already have a large monitor and the reduction in reading area is negligible. Plus you can hide the left menu section by pressing “u”. If you are using a smartphone, you should be using the Google Reader App which allows you to read each item separately — no screen issue there.

Also, I don’t get why people are complaining about the loss of the Share button. Instead of “Share” and “Share with Note”, you have a consolidated feature to share an item and add your notes. It is a single click at the top of the screen. And instead of sharing it publicly, you can share it to a circle. Of course, creating a circle and adding people to it may be bothersome, but in the old setup, everything was public anyway.

But I agree with Brian Shih about the post formatting. For some strange reason, Google Reader has overridden the hyperlink rendering to make it all black-colored links. This is a complete no-no when it comes to web layouts. Something must be underlined and in a different color to stand out as a link. If it is just underlined, it could be mistaken to be emphasized text. What is strange is that Gmail also had a similar “User Interface Refresh” (along with the death of Buzz) and it has links in the proper style (blue, underlined text).

I assume that there is some UI group at Google which is forcing the new layout on all the various product groups. I saw this layout a few weeks ago in Google Docs and liked it. But it is only more tolerable than likable in both Gmail and Google Reader. Consistency has been achieved, but each product has lost its distinctive feel.

I hope Google doesn’t kill off Reader. Google+ is not well suited for consuming content from dozens of blogs. It has a strange algorithm that arbitrarily decides whether you have finished reading a post, so unless you bookmark it separately, it is gone from your stream. Whereas Google Reader keeps track of every unread item and if you would rather archive and read them later (instead of seeing hundreds of unread items), you can “star” them and they will remain in your Starred Items until you get to them.

Killing Google Reader could be a huge public relations disaster for Google. The user community (bloggers & readers) of Google Reader are the most active users on the Internet and they could create a huge backlash, especially against Google+. It is better to nudge Reader users into using more of G+ than force them to do so.

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