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As Twitter and Facebook grow, Google Reader copies features, adding clutter

July 17, 2009 |  5:00 am
Google-reader
Google Reader's increasingly cluttered interface (larger version).

Google Reader is one of the best RSS aggregators out there. But with more blogs and newspapers broadcasting their content on Twitter and Facebook, RSS feeds are becoming less relevant.

Cue the new "follow" and "like" features, which were rolled out to Reader users Wednesday.

"Follow" might sound familiar to Twitterers. The term describes connecting with people and sharing content on the social network. Reader has adopted the idea, which it implemented similarly with "friends" before. But now you can search for users to follow.

Reader also added a Twitter-esque status input at the top. Twitter's box asks, "What are you doing?" Facebook asks, "What's on your mind?" And Reader wonders, "Have some thoughts to share?"

Reader's new "like" feature might seem familiar to Facebook users -- though, FriendFeed had it first. In Reader, you can click the "like" button at the bottom of any feed article to publicly announce your affinity for a particular story.

Google has been trying to follow along with the continued success of the big social networks for a while.

Adding the share feature, which lets you forward interesting content to friends on your Gmail and Google Chat lists, was ...

... akin to the ubiquitous "retweet" on Twitter (and e-mail forwarding, which preceded it). Reader's later addition of note sharing was essentially retweeting with commentary.

Then, Google threw commenting into the mix. Like blogs or Facebook, users could leave their two cents on articles visible to Reader users.

Now, with "like," the interface is getting a bit convoluted.

For example, let's say we have a news article that we like. Well, might as well click the "like" button, right?

OK, now we've told the Internet that we think it's cool, and we can see a list of strangers who also think it's cool.

Hmm, we should also share this with our friends to make sure they see it. Let's click "share."

No, wait.

Let's "share with a note." "This is cool," we write.

OK, cool. Now, let's leave a comment.

Wait, we don't have much to say besides, "This is cool." Let's not.

Maybe we'll tag this as "cool." Done.

Our cousin doesn't use Google Reader, but she'll think this is cool. I'll click the "email" button to send her a link to it.

In fact, we think this is so cool that we're going to click the star button so it will save so that we can come back to it later and just reflect on how cool it is.

In short, these new features aren't that cool. But feel free to do all those things to this blog post if you're seeing it in Google Reader. That would be cool.

-- Mark Milian

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