Despite Google Reader being killed in 2013, Google continues to flirt with the idea of helping users discover news. The algorithm-driven “Google Discover” and Google News feeds drive massive traffic to websites based on users’ search history, but what if people could just tell Google which websites they like? The company’s new Chromium blog post details how Google is “experimenting” a new RSS-powered “Follow” button in Chrome.
“We’re exploring how we can simplify the experience to get the latest and greatest from your favorite sites right in Chrome, building on the open RSS web standard,” says Google’s post. “Our vision is to help people connect directly with their favorite publishers and creators on the web.” When enabled, a “Follow” button will appear in the Chrome for Android menu.
Chrome’s “new tab” page for Android has had a Discover feed for a while now. Now when a user presses the “Follow” button, a new “Follow” tab will appear on the new tab page. So you get algorithm suggestions in the “For you” tab and a “Following” tab full of your manually added blog posts. The RSS feed interface is similar to the Google Discover feed, with large thumbnails, a title, and no article text. For now, the feature is only on Android and will appear in the Chrome Canary (nightly) builds in “the next few weeks”.
The death of Google Reader in 2013 was a direct result of the launch of Google+ in 2011. Google Reader product manager Brian Shih revealed that the Reader team was constantly being taken away from Reader to work on the social networks Google was trying at the time – first OpenSocial, then Google Buzz, then Google+. When Google+ development began in 2010, Reader was put into maintenance mode and never recovered, with many on the team, including Shih, leaving Google.
Google+ is now gone, so will Google embrace RSS again? “We will provide more guidance to web publishers as we learn and evaluate whether this feature will move from an experiment to a wider rollout in Chrome,” the company said.
By the way, here at Ars Technica we have many fine RSS feeds for your consideration listed here. You can also add “/feed/” to the end of an author page URL for author-specific feeds, like this one.
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