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Google Reader Changes – What To Expect [Updated]

Google Reader LogoThe RSS Reading “community” is still talking about the proposed changes in Google Reader (expected today). I, too, am interested in how this new Reader product is going to look and wether this new product will be usable as the Google Reader we’re used to today. I did want to talk about what this will mean for me, an avid Google Reader user and why the kind of FUD out there is probably not warranted. Heck, there’s even a petition to stop these changes.

What I’m not worried about:
1. Losing Friending & following  – I was never a user of this feature on any level. I don’t think the Reader interface, as it is, benefits from this sort of view. Reader appears more like a mail reader and not like a social network. As such, the friend’s feeds may end up as part of my own feed, but it would never b more than that. Even worse, many of the items that friends will share are going to be duplicates of things I’ve already seen. All the more reason for me to filter out that information. Google Reader’s biggest issue is really noise.
2. Losing shared link blogs – The second feature to go is the aggregate view of shared links (such as my own Gmail shares or even my Google Apps based shares). This will be a problem for me, mainly because I use a great third-party service for sharing what I find interesting to Twitter. The service, If This, Then That, watches my Google Reader shares and then when a new one is posted it creates a tweet based on that share. One such tweet looks like this:

There doesn’t seem to be any word from ifttt on this issue, but I expect to to be more talked-about once the changes take effect. Since I don’t know if this new Google Reader is going to kill the link, it’s hard to say. But, my feeling is that if it does, ifttt will find another way.

3. Interface Changes – There must be allot of folks working on the interface for many Google Products. While I don’t always like what changes they’ve come up with, I feel that the coming changes won’t likely affect the functionality of the core product.
What changes will probably NOT happen

1. Syncing from apps – Given that the nature of Reader’s undocumented API interface is not  related to shared items – I really don’t expect this to go away. If we do see this go, Reader will be a seriously changed application given that this supports a great number of sync clients and has become the standard for central feed syncing. Given that this might not go right away, it doesn’t mean it will stay. Take a look at this great article by Brent Simmons. Also, the developer of FeedDemon responds. Notice no mention of losing the ability to sync. It seems the consensus is that this feature will remain intact.
2. The death of Google Reader – It’s definitely premature to call this a death of Google Reader. I look at these change as not so much killing the product, but killing features that were clearly redundant (and replacing them with features that appear to exist inside of Google+). If I were to infer support (or not) from Google for the product, I would say this clearly signals that they aren’t planning to send it out to pasture (otherwise why bother making any changes?). (Edit: Well, as you know, Google Reader is now dead. I was wrong)
3. The removal of discovery – While discovery occurs from seeing what others follow, I expect the new Google Reader to include some method from within Google+ to discover other’s shares. Techcrunch reports about how Iranians are upset about these changes. Internally, these features will go away, the Google+ integration will likely open up a much larger population of interesting articles and likely allow for MORE discovery than the previous product. Also, don’t expect to see the other discovery service, Google Alerts, to die either.
4. The addition of Google Apps support – one I would really love to see, but sadly unlikely, is the added support for Google Apps users to share to Google, and use stuff like Google Profiles. Wouldn’t that be nice?
The changes are said to be happening today. I, like other Google Reader users, am looking forward to seeing what changes will happen. Will this be a serious blow to Google Reader users? Will journalists bemoan these changes and stop being able to report the news? Do we need to find a replacement for the centralized monopoly Google has created? I’ll let you know what I think when the changes do take effect.

Update  – Nov 1st
Well, the changes have taken effect and I have to say, it’s not too bad over all. One of the bigger losses that I can see are the “Share” options. Loosing the “Share” link and the ability to feed it out means that the ifttt.com connection to Google Reader is now broken. Even more odd is that no one at ifttt.com is talking {sigh}. Also, the sharing option that does exist is +1-ing something which tends to bury the link in Google+. In addition, there is a manual “Share..” button on the top-right of Google Reader that will likely throw the currently focused item into you stream. This change is probably the biggest problem for others.

I also notice you can’t go back to the old-style view.

On the Reader Android App – the “Share” option is there (until that app updates), if using that would the old sharing sub-structure still exist? Perhaps we’ll see someone hack this?

Otherwise, the look is ok and all of my 237 subscriptions and folders are intact – the font tends to waste more of the available space, but it’s not too annoying when all is said and done.

Update – Nov 10th
So, Google seems to have made another change. Likely responding to the confusing nature of the “Share…” button on the top-right in Reader – they have added a share option to each post. This appears to works exactly the same. A good move to make the product easier to use.

Update – Nov 28th
I didn’t notice this before today. I really like this simple update to the interface. Google Reader is now highlighting each individual post as you go through your list. This small update really ties in nice when you want to read news faster (see my post on how to do that). It’s nice, also, to see that Google is actively developing the application past the previous major update.