With the news that Friendfeed was being sold to Facebook for an undisclosed sum, people have started flocking over to Google Reader, which shows you how fickle the internet can be. One minute they are all in Friendfeed professing their love for it and the next they are moving over to Google Reader just because they may not agree with the future direction of the other site.
I have always been more of a Reader person than a Friendfeed person. I don’t know why but I feel more comfortable with Reader. Maybe it’s because it is tightly integrated with Gmail so I can email things to myself, maybe it’s because Reader has a really nice user interface so I can whiz about from post to post. I can’t pin it down but Reader has always been my preferred app. Say what you like about Google but they always instinctively seem to know what is good for the general net user and what works / doesn’t work. As a result, they have built an app which is primed to benefit from any disgruntled Friendfeed users if Facebook messes too much with it.
Here’s what I find the best about Reader and why it is a good candidate to benefit from any Friendfeed/Facebook fall-out :
A Ready-Made Social Application
Google has done a lot of work over the last few years to build their own social network and they have kind of done it in stealth.
First, they built Gmail and Reader, then they connected them together so you can do things such as email RSS posts to yourself. Then they built the whole concept of Google Profiles (here’s mine) and connected that to both Gmail and Reader.
Then they finally did some work on Reader itself, allowing you to share items with the people that follow you and to “like” items. Gmail Contacts then became more social, allowing you to put your contacts into “groups” then those groups could be allowed /disallowed to comment on your Reader shared items with the tick of a box.
Let’s not forget that Reader profiles also have a “follow” button so you can follow a particular person’s items. With all the bits and pieces joined up, suddenly you were looking at a Google Social Network – and it isn’t really apparent unless you use all the Google services and can see everything coming together like that. It’s not as if one day Google suddenly announced the creation of their own Facebook competitor.
The next stage seems to bewhich can be put on your website but that service is still a bit sketchy (at least to me) in terms of what it can actually achieve and I don’t feel Google is making much of an effort to promote this yet. We’ll see what will happen in the future.
Have A Conversation Inside Reader
One of the other improvements that Reader made was giving users the ability to have a conversation underneath a post. The downside to this though is that you cannot export your conversations so Reader basically “owns” them and the conversations don’t show up anywhere else such as Friendfeed, if you still happen to be using both services.
From what I can see, the commenting is still a bit sparse with not that many people using the feature. But I think this will start to increase fairly soon as more and more people start to use the social features of Reader.
Ability To Import Your Tweets & Search Through Them
This was something that I myself only did last week after reading about it on ReadWriteWeb and it is a really great idea. You can import the Twitter messages from all your followers and make it all searchable inside Reader.
So 6 months down the line, if you want to find a particular Tweet that someone sent, you should be able to find it with a simple Reader search.
A Customizable “Send To” Menu
When the Reader team made the “send to” menu customizable, they really opened the Pandora’s Box on people coming up with their own ideas. Just a simple Google search for “send to” + reader is already enough to find lots of possibilities.
My own one, with the help of MUO writer Dave Drager, is the “print” button where you can send the entire post to the printer :
and the icon link is :
This will send the entire post (even if there is only an excerpt in Reader) to your printer. I don’t actually do that much printing these days but it is still a useful option to have.
To round off this post, here’s a few Greasemonkey scripts which I use which you might find useful if you find yourself spending more time at Reader :
– this script puts the site favicon next to each site name. Helpful if you have a lot of feeds and you would like some kind of visual aid to pick out the ones you read the most.
Open All Unread Button – this one places a new button on each feed and, as the name suggests, pressing the button will open all unread posts in a new Firefox tab. The posts will also be marked “unread”.
Straight To Reader – are you annoyed when you subscribe to a feed and you get that window asking you if you want to subscribe on the Google Homepage or Google Reader? Me too! This script will bypass that page and send you straight to Reader.
*New* Google Reader – a while back, the Reader team did a bit of a redesign and the result was awful (at least to me and to a few others). This is proven by someone making a script which puts Reader back to the way it used to be. And this is it – *New Google Reader*
There is at least one flaw that I can see and that is you can’t get a proper overview of a webpage’s popularity in Reader. For example, in Friendfeed, you can make a search and then subscribe to that search so future results are either emailed to you or sent to your RSS reader. This way, I can see everyday what MUO pages Friendfeeders have been “liking” and commenting upon. As far as I can see, Reader doesn’t offer a similar function. I suppose Google’s nearest equivalent is Google Alerts but it isn’t quite the same. Hopefully the Reader team will introduce a search subscribe option in the future which I think would be brilliant.
Are you one of the disgruntled Friendfeeders who has now moved to Reader? If so, how does Reader compare to Friendfeed? If not, does this post make you think about moving? What Reader features are your favourites? Let us know in the comments below.