If you talk to Very Online people of a certain age, many of them will mourn Google Reader. It enabled you to follow your favourite websites without having to go and visit them individually thanks to a technology called RSS, which pushed the new content directly to you. It was great, and from 2005 onwards Google Reader came to dominate RSS. And then Google killed it in 2013, sucking a lot of the air out of the RSS room – which social networks ultimately replaced, for better or worse.
So on the one hand I'm excited to see that Google is effectively bringing Google Reader back in its Chrome browser. And on the other, I'm pretty apprehensive that Google is effectively bringing Google Reader back in its Chrome browser.
Don't call it a comeback
According to Chrome Unboxed, a Chrome experiment is moving to the desktop Chrome browser and to Chrome OS too. It's been in Chrome for Android for a while, and it enables you to choose "Follow" on a website. This adds the site to your Following feed, and while it isn't quite as feature-packed as old-school RSS – for example there's no way to mark a page as read, and from what I've seen so far it only shows you headlines, not the entire article – it means you don't have to remember to go and visit sites to get their updates.
I miss Google Reader, but from what I've seen of this new feature it also lacks something else that RSS offered: a way to read the text from sites stripped from anything else. No ads in the centre of the browser, no 'take this survey to read further'.
RSS came of age at the same time as some of the most user-unfriendly advertising tech, and while many browsers have evolved to curb the worst excesses there are still plenty of sites where finding the actual article is harder than any video game boss. I'd like to think that Google would bring that part of Reader back too. Here's hoping.