New Google Reader: Improvement or Total Disaster?

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Google just released the new version of its popular RSS reader, Google Reader, and the Internet is, well, not too happy about it. The online petition to bring back the old Reader currently has more than 9,000 signatures. The Twitterverse is a cacophony of Google Reader hate. At this rate, it won’t be long before angry techies are burning Google Reader effigies in the street.

So, how bad is the new Reader? Not bad at all, actually. Most of the animus comes from fans of the old sharing system. People already had their networks set up, with which they could share and comment on each other’s stories, using whatever username they wanted.

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Now? All of that will be done through Google+. It certainly does seem like Google is trying to jam its social network down our throats. When Spotify made the decision to force people to sign up through Facebook to share playlists, users were livid. This has the same feel.

The actual act of +1-ing and sharing stories with your Google+ social circles is fairly seamless and intuitive. The problem is (speaking from personal experience), most of my friends and I have Google+, we just don’t use it that much. Instead we use this nifty little social networking site called “Facebook.” And now Google wants to force us to switch?

So, yes, it’s easy to understand the “Sharebros” rage. Still, sharing on Google Reader was a dead end, beloved by hardcore users, but perhaps confusing to newcomers. If you were a loyal Google+ user (which, obviously, Google is hoping to create more of), the idea of creating a new network and sharing stories would seem redundant; why not just click the +1 button you’re used to and share it with your friends?

It might be annoying to longtime users, but in the end, it was probably the right move for Google, especially if it brings new people to both Google+ and Google Reader.

As for the design, it’s hard to find fault with the new look. It’s crisp, clear and easy on the eyes, a godsend for someone like me who scrolls through the Reader like the guys scanning code in The Matrix. All in all, this is probably a win for Google, even if it takes Reader users awhile to get used to it.

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