A second look at Google Reader

The first time I tried Google Reader (which was when it was first introduced), I found it to be one of the more technically impressive JavaScript applications I’ve seen, as well as one of the least usable.  It seemed that the Google Reader team was far more concerned with pushing the boundaries of Ajax and JavaScript wizardry than they were with building a functional, practical tool.  The good news is that I think they came to the same conclusion, and completely redesigned it.  It’s been some time now since they relaunched Google Reader, but I was so put off by their first version that I didn’t get around to trying the new one until about a month ago.  I’m happy to report that I think Google Reader has grown into an uncommonly good application.

It’s easy to get started using Google Reader, so rather than spending a lot of time reading my conclusions, I recommend that you go draw some of your own.  I would like to briefly point out some of what I consider to be the most compelling features, though:

  • It’s fast.  I think speed has always been Google’s secret sauce.  Speed is not a feature, as far as I’m concerned.  It’s a necessity, and Google has proven that they are the master of responsive web applications.
  • It’s optimized.  The UI, I mean.  Google Reader makes exceptionally good use of the browser window, and a lot of thought obviously went into how the user would interact with the application.  I’m able to take in a great deal of information at a glance, and easily uncover more information with a minimal number of clicks.
  • It’s focused.  Although Google Read is actually pretty feature-rich (it supports tons of keyboard accelerators, you can add bookmarks to your toolbar which automatically navigate through your new posts, and you can read your feeds on a mobile device), the features stay out of your way until you want them.
  • Sharing.  My favorite feature of Google Reader is sharing.  When you share a post, it adds it to your shared list which basically auto-generates a link blog.  Very slick.  I’ve just started using this feature, so I haven’t shared much content yet, but I think this concept has a lot of potential.  (If you’re interested in what I find interesting, you can find my shared posts here.)

I’ve done a lot of work with RSS and blog aggregation over the last few years (I wrote the Adobe XML News Aggregator, News Brew, and the open source ActionScript 3 RSS/Atom libraries), so I feel like I have a special appreciation for when RSS aggregation is done well, and I think Google has certainly gotten it right. What do you think of Google Reader?  If you’re not using it, what’s your aggregator of choice?

2 thoughts on “A second look at Google Reader

  1. While impressed with Google Reader, I was disappointed that they have not (yet?) combined their legendary search technology with the news stories delivered by the RSS feeds. Do you know of another RSS feed that would allow me, for example, to narrow stories down to just those that have the term “private equity” in them?


Comments are closed.