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Can Google Reader be saved?

Google Plus challenging the social media dominance of Facebook and Twitter
Google Plus challenging the social media dominance of Facebook and Twitter KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images

Bloggers have traditionally been core users of Google Reader. We need the tool to keep track of the blogosphere and have a single interface through which all posts flow. However, outside the blogging world, Google Reader is being displaced by a deluge of social-media products, like Facebook, Twitter, and Google's own Google Plus.

Meanwhile, Google has been rolling out a comprehensive redesign of all its interfaces. Reader got sucked in, much to the displeasure of the blogging community. Nobody seems to like it, but then again, those nobodies are all old-fogey bloggers who ruled the realm in 2007 but are now ready to be put out to pasture. 

The biggest complaint is that all sharing is now being bent to the will of Google Plus. Gotta get those fossils out of the second George W. Bush administration!

Oh please. Reader is still a very useful tool. It deserves better. Heck, even one of the former Googlers who helped design it thinks so. This is from Kevin Fox's blog:

This product is important to me, and for many it fulfills the need for a source-centric news consumption product that has been overshadowed by the overwhelming push of ‘social stream’ products such as Twitter, Facebook, and Google Plus. While those products are important, they don’t meet the same needs that Google Reader was designed to, and Reader should not fall by the wayside, a victim to fashion.

And so I put my resources where my mouth is. As the former lead designer for Google Reader, I offer my services to Google, rejoining for a three month contract in order to restore and enhance the utility of Google Reader, while keeping it in line with Google’s new visual standards requirements. I will put my current projects on hold to ensure that Google Reader keeps its place as the premier news reader, and raises the bar of what a social newsreader can be.

Sadly, Google rebuffed his offer. But you can see in his pitch what happening with Google and its relationship to content. Google Reader was a news reader — it allowed you to focus on where you news was coming from and customize a view that enabled you to sift through it quickly and, if you felt like it, share that information. Google Plus is a social framework that values your network's curation of news more highly than what you yourself can set up. 

I feel slightly burned by what's happened with Google Reader because you can see Google reworking an old product to match the better integration functions of G+ — something that I tweeted a lot about when G+ debuted (nobody does integration better than Google, across its various products, and I figured that G+ would be the highest expression of this). In practice, however, I can see how failing to more fully update Reader has made for trouble. 

Why not take Fox up on his offer? Well, it could be that Google believes Reader is a backwater that only ever had an overly specific user base — bloggers — to begin with. Which of course opens up a competitive space for somebody who can do as Fox suggests and create a social newsreader that does what Reader did, but in an innovative way.

The bloggers may even be made happy!

Follow Matthew DeBord and the DeBord Report on Twitter.

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