Google unveiled its latest beta product offering at the Web 2.0 conference in San Francisco last week. The Google Reader is a Web-based RSS reader designed for the search engine’s registered users.
Similar to the online service offered by NewsGator, Google Reader allows users to subscribe to RSS feeds and receive an e-mail notification when a Web site publishes an update.
“We often get asked how anyone is supposed to keep up with the firehose of stuff launched from the Web’s spigot, so we’re offering Reader as a way to help,” said Chris Wetherell, software engineer for the Google Reader, on his blog.
Read What You Like
Google is billing the new tool as a way for users to spend more time reading what they care about most. Google said the reader automatically gets the latest news and updates from a user’s favorite sites.
It also allows users to sort their reading lists by a relevance feature, which takes a guess at what’s most relevant to the user based on factors such as which items the user actually decides to read. Google said its new RSS reader also allows users to find the blogs and news sites they have been missing out on.
Finally, Google said its new beta service allows users to share interesting items with friends. When a user comes across something worth sharing, they can e-mail or blog it from within the Reader and star or label items they want to save for themselves.
Taking the Google Reader Tour
The Google Reader user interface is designed for user familiarity, with a search box at the top similar to the search engine. Users are instructed to enter the name of a news source or author, such as the New York Times or Dave Barry, or a topic or industry, such as gardening or nanotechnology. If the user knows the URL, they can also enter that directly.
The Google Reader returns a list of results, and allows users to subscribe to the ones they want. A reading list helps users navigate the RSS feeds with buttons for “up,” “down,” and “refresh.” The Reader is also designed to help users keep track of what items they have read and remove those items from the list the next time they refresh.
Making Google Stickier
Search engine expert Danny Sullivan told the E-Commerce Times that the Google Reader is more of a portal feature than a search feature. In other words, he said, if you use Google Reader to read your feeds, then you are likely going to use Google to do other things.
“It makes you stick with Google, in the same way Yahoo’s My Yahoo gets you sticking around there to read feeds,” Sullivan said. “There are search features, of course, some may find this a new and useful way to locate feeds, though I think the Google Blog Search feature is more for that crowd.”
Google last week also announced the official launch of Google Local, merging the technologies behind Google Local and Google Maps.
Google Local offers users access to information such as integrated local search results and detailed driving directions, and includes features such as draggable maps, satellite imagery, and keyboard shortcuts.