Google Reader has added a feature to the sidebar that recommends RSS feeds you might be interested in subscribing to based on your current subscription. They list three feeds, but click a link and you’ll get a page with 20 pretty good recommendation.
Reader recommended for me Dave Naylor, Michael Gray, Ross Mayfield, Dave Sifry, the Google News Blog, the AdWords API blog, the Google Checkout Blog, the Vista Team blog, Microsoft’s JobsBlog, Channel 10, Jeff Sandquist, Tim Sneath, Matt Haughey, Eileen Brown and Dosh Dosh, among others, pretty much good recommendations all around.
By contrast, Bloglines has a similar feature which hasn’t been updated in a while (possibly not since its launch three years ago) that is biased towards more popular blogs you may already read in another form, or don’t subscribe to for a reason. They include Slashdot (already subscribe), CNET (I don’t subscribe to all of CNET, just specific areas), kuro5hin (they’re still around?), MacRumors, Gizmodo (already subscribe), Dilbert, all of Wired, Fast Company, 43 Folders (already subscribe), Kottke, Think Secret and Extremetech. Reader’s ahead already on day one.
Reader also added the ability to re-arrange feeds via drag-and-drop. This was a long one coming, given that Bloglines had it in the previous version since February 2006, and a necessary one. Google still doesn’t provide a means for renaming folders, but at least you can improve things by moving them around.
Google Reader got two new additions, courtesy of some Googlers and their 20% time. In their spare time, Steve Lacey and Dolapo Falola seperately created a blogroll you can share on your blog, showing your readers your feed subscriptions; and some enhancements for Reader Mobile. For Mobile, they added seeing Trends data for feeds viewed on Mobile, configuring the number of items displayed per page, and disabling re-formatting of linked pages. There are also iPhone-specific user interface tweaks.
A few weeks ago, Google started publicly reporting feed subscriber counts for all Google RSS services (including Google Reader, iGoogle, Orkut and such), and they are now tweaking the way the numbers are tabulated so as to make them as accurate as possible. If you want to fidn out the number of subscribers a feed has, Ionut Alex has instructions for you.
Finally, Google Reader has started putting together “feed bundles”, combining multiple RSS feeds by category (like News, Celebrities, even “Google-related”), so new users can add a category with a click when they don’t know which blogs they specifically are looking for. Just click Browse in the Reader sidebar to start looking at them.
Two products have graduated from Google Labs, moving from the “experimental” phase to the “damn, it’s a good product” phase. Google Reader loses the beaker icon, and the Reader team has a blog post “breaking up” with Labs.
Google updated its webmaster tools console to show something completely unexpected, the number of subscribers your website’s feeds have in Google Reader, Orkut, and iGoogle RSS Gadgets. Google also added profiles for iGoogle Gadget developers, so you can see the top developers (in different regions, no less), and find other Gadgets written by developers you already like.
Matt Cutts talks about some of the new advanced search operators Google has for restricting searches by date, including the past certain number of days, number of weeks, and number of years. A good example query is this one, which shows you pages indexed by Google about “iphone” in the last single day. Replace iphone in the URL with your name or company name, and you get a much improved ego search.
Lifehacker also notes how you can ask Google “What time is it?” and Google will give you a special box with the local time in seven common locations. You can also ask what time it is in a specific city and get that answer.
A Google video about Google Reader shown to new Google employees (Nooglers) was accidentally briefly left public on Google Video, and a few people caught the video and are publishing details. “Fanboy” gave the Blogoscoped forum some details, and there are so many of them, but here are some that he lists:
Google is working on ways for blog publishers to explain to feed readers what types of changes have been made to feed items (post deleted, post edited in a minor way). Presumably, this will be some sort of extension to the RSS spec, and a much needed one as any frequent RSS user will attest. Maybe they can work with Dave Winer on this one?
2/3 of feeds have only one subscriber. Some feeds have tens of millions of subscribers. Those with one subscriber are queried every three hours, those with more are checked every hour.
Google has 10 terabytes of saved feed data from 8 million feeds, growing 4% every week. That means it doubles every 17 1/2 weeks and should reach 150 terabytes in 60 weeks.
Google uses the BigTable database for feed storage, Mustang for feed search.
Reader is going to integrate social features, including Activity Streams (a poorly named Facebook News Feed), comments on shared feed items.
Google regrets the stupid decision to call tags “labels”, that it is “kind of a historic accident and needlessly confusing”.
Google Universal Search has a required response time of 1/4 second. Any Google service that can’t meet that threshold, can’t be included in Universal Search.
3 people work on the Reader backend, three (plus an intern) on the frontend.
Reader will add a feature where it recommends feeds for the user to subscribe to.
Next week, Reader will be released in several languages, followed by 40 languages next month.
Google Reader is #1, according to Feedburner stats. My Yahoo is number one for headlines. Usage of Bloglines has not declined as Reader became more popular.
Reader has Google’s third most loyal userbase, after Gmail and Orkut.
70% of Reader user use Firefox.
Reader might show ads, but show AdSense ads for AdSense publishers in the interface where appropriate.
Google has improved slightly the mobile phone version of Google Reader, adding a new settings page linked from the bottom of every screen. The settings let you increase the number of items displayed per screen from 10 to 20, or lower it to 5. Another setting tells Reader whether or not you want it to reformat web pages for better reading on mobile devices (the default is yes, turn it off if you have a browser that does that for you).
APC Mag notes that Google also added a link to every since page for other Google services, hoping to spread the love.
Google Reader is a bit of an oddity for two reasons. First, it is a Google product that has succeeded, a rarity in and of itself, but stranger still is that it is one of only a few Google products that had no search function. Yes, despite the mountain of date contained within any RSS reader, and the data mining tools Reader already had (Trends), Google never put that particular feature in there.
Fret no more! Google Reader now has a search box, which can search all of your subscribed RSS feeds, a particular feed, or a particular tag. The search results even appear in the Reader interface, not on a seperate page as a seperate service (Bloglines, pay attention!).
Reader also added some nice other features. Unread item counts now go up to 1000 (why won’t it just give the real number? That’s just stupid). You can now collapse the side navigation to just pay attention to your reading, full browser. And, huzzah, Reader now updates the browser’s Back and Forward buttons so that they work while using Reader, something never easy with an AJAX interface.
Both Bloglines and Reader have a great interface now, and while Reader has some unique features and more polish, Bloglines is essentially new and shows great promise. Also, Reader has some strange limitations, like the 1,000 items number, that make zero sense and only makes using it unnecessarilly harder. Still, some nice new features.
Catching up: I had a crazy week, with me and my wife going on a short wedding anniversary vacation, one of my best friends getting married, and my aunt and her family moving forever to another continent. There’s a lot of stuff filling up the queue, so we’re going to go through it double time
Google Reader Adds Popout For Video & Audio
Google Reader added a smart thing to its media preview, which lets you listen to enclosed audio files or watch embedded video without downloading the file by playing it in a Google Flash player. Since you might want to keep reading your Google Reader while listening to a podcast, you can now hit up a “Popout” link to keep the Flash player going in a new window while you do your business back in Reader. It works for enclosures with podcasts, video, supposedly even YouTube videos.
Google Earth Adds NASA, Night Layers
Ionut Alex reports that Google Earth now has three new layers, courtesy of NASA. Possibly the most interesting is one that shows the Earth at night, letting you see the intensity of light produced by major cities. Also, there are now layers that show photos of the Earth taken by astronauts, and satellite imagery of major geographic phenomena, like the Indian tsunami. Just open up Google Earth to check them out.
Google Personalizing Your Ads
Google has started doing a smart thing, personalizing ads based on your recent behavior. That means that when you run a search, Google will see how it relates to your immediate recent searches, and if it finds a connection, it will present ads based on that. That means Google is usingsome intelligence and providing a unique set of ads on Google search based on your activity, different ads than anyone else would see. Pretty cool.
Google Kills Click-To-Call Feature
Google has stopped offering the click-to-call feature in Google Maps, which would let you click in the search results to initiate a call to a local business. The feature, which involves you clicking on a button in any Maps search result, then entering your phone number, was rife with abuse, as pranksters used it to have local businesses called by their unsuspecting friends (nothing forced you to enter your real personal number), and the phone bill costs to Google probably outweighed any usefulness.
See If You Can Beat The Googol Conglomerate
Google has a ton of blog reader data via Google Reader, knowing what stories users click on, which RSS feeds get the most usage, what items users share, and whatnot. In addition, they have access to linking patterns in Google Blog Search, and now, thanks to Feedburner, they have complete RSS clickstream data for many of the most popular blogs in the world. Sadly, they make no public usage of this data, don’t take advantage of it to create a popular blog news site like Digg.
Now, there’s a Facebook application that uses Google Reader and has a list of the most popular shared items on Google Reader. With 4,000 users and little means of gaming the system (you need a Reader account, subscribe to the feed, and share the item, then add a Facebook account, add the application, and subscribe to your own shared items, just to add 1 to the popularity count), the list of top stories gives a great idea of what is popular among Reader users.
Google Reader has a great Trends feature, but it doesn’t have a service-wide public Trends site. Considering that Reader now has more users than basically anyone else, maybe it’s time someone did this? At this point, Facebook has Google’s Digg, not Google.
You Gotta love the Webware 100 Awards. With ten winners per category, every multi-billion-dollar corporation can win multiple times, often in every category! Gee, it’s just like the Oscars!
Here’s what Google won:
Google Reader won in the Browsing category, Gmail won in the Communications category, Google won in the Data category, YouTube won in the Media category, GOOG-411 won in the Mobile category*, Gmail Mobile won in the Mobile category, Google Maps Mobile won in the Mobile category, Google AdWords/AdSense won in the Productivity and Commerce category, Google Calendar won in the Productivity and Commerce category, Google Docs won in the Productivity and Commerce category, Blogger, won in the Publishing category, Feedburner in the Publishing category, Google Analytics won in the Publishing category, and Google Maps won in the reference category.
My Yahoo - Browsing; Yahoo Mail - Communication, Yahoo Messenger - Communications; Yahoo Search - Data; Flickr - Media; Yahoo Video - Media; Yahoo OneSearch - Mobile; Yahoo Maps - Reference.
Internet Explorer - Browsing; Windows Live Hotmail - Communications; Windows Live Messenger - Communications; Windows Live Search - Data; TellMe - Mobile; Microsoft Office Live - Productivity and Commerce; Silverlight - Publishing; Microsoft Virtual Earch - Reference.
Everyone else makes an appearance, and in most categories, every major player is a winner. I love award shows where everyone wins. It’s like those Little Leagues where everyone gets a trophy and no one learns to be an adult.
(via The Google Analytics Blog)
* - cough, bullshit, cough. It’s a brand new service, and unless it feeds the homeless, it deserves nothing yet. Category filler.
Little late on this, but I missed it last week when it happened: Google released a new program, Google Gears, which allows websites to make offline versions of themselves.
As a way of showing off what Google Gears is capable of, Google added support for it to Google Reader, its RSS news reader. Once you’ve installed the Google Gears browser plug-in (for IE 6.0 or Firefox 1.5 on Windows, Mac and Linux), you’ll get a new link in Reader labeled with a sort of sync icon. Click it, and Gears syncs up to 2,000 items from Reader, ready for you to read when offline.
Gears is a major play for Google, one that will help it compete with traditional desktop software by removing a major sticking point with users, that their stuff doesn’t work without an internet connection. Obviously, the bigger goal has got to be getting Google Docs, Spreadsheets, Gmail and Calendar to work without an internet connection, but as a technology preview, Reader shows off exactly what is possible and leaves us hoping for even more.
Other developers will hopefully build off Gears, giving their applications offline modes, although we haven’t heard any announced yet. When they are, you can be sure you’ll read about them at the Google Gears blog.
Real shame Gears doesn’t work on Opera, but it’s open source, so maybe someone in the community will correct Google’s ommission. Might even get me to start using Reader. I hear Reader actually runs faster offline than on.
Google has launched a seperate interface for Google Reader that will work on the Nintendo Wii. Just head to Reader on the Wii, or google.com/reader/wii in any browser, and you’ll get an interface designed to work with the Wiimote, with big text and even bigger links. It can even use the remote’s buttons:
Tips and tricks
Google Reader can take advantage of the buttons on your Wiimote, letting you navigate easily from the comfort of your couch:
up/down: scroll up/down
right/left: next/previous item
1 button: show subscriptions
2 button: show links
When showing subscriptions:
up/down: previous/next subscription
right: select current subscription
-/+: collapse/expand folder
Nintendo’s a good fit for Google, even culture-wise. Maybe they should buy it, to compete with Microsoft’s Xbox, and to have a new ad platform.
The Google Reader team has completely redone the feature in Reader that lets you send a post to a buddy as an email. Now, when you click the Email button to send it, you get a Gmail window (within Reader, no opening a second window), prepolated with the blog post, which is completely formatted and looks just as good as it did in Reader. It looks good enough that your friend will understand what they are being sent (unlike the unformatted mess that used to go) and has just the right links in case they might even want to get in on this whole RSS thing.
Google is now reporting how many of its users are subscribed to website’s feeds, by including the subscriber info in the header its Feedfetcher spider leaves when it grabs a feed. This means that if you look at the header, you’ll know how many users combined subscribe to that feed in Google Reader and the Google Personalized Homepage. With Bloglines, Yahoo and Google all reporting counts in an easy way, you can now get a really good idea at a glance how many feed subscribers you have.
Thanks to Google’s move, Feedburner users all across the web (who get the best automated and detailed feed statistics of anyone) are reporting huge jumps in subscriber counts. Yeah, turns out that Google’s Feedfetcher may very well be, in total, the biggest player in the RSS feed subscription game. Darren Rowse had 30% of his subscribers from old #1 Bloglines, now he has 39% from new number one Google and 17% from number two Bloglines.
Also, Randy Morin did a survey of blog search users, finding out that Google Blog Search is the favored blog search engine. Twice as many respondents listed Google as their favorite search over Technorati, showing how easily Google has taken over that market, just as it is muscling its way into RSS readers with a great product.
Hitwise has some info on how Google Base and Google Checkout are doing, with Checkout doing considerably better. While Google has just been burning cash to get users on Checkout, they haven’t really promoted Base at all, and a rumored replacement of Froogle with Base has still not happened. Base’s market share has actually declined over the last half-year.
The Google Reader team added a little convenience for Blogger users: If you’re using the new Blogger system (and practically everybody is now), you can add a Google Reader widget to your blog sidebar just by clicking an “Add to Blogger” button. Reader is taking advantage of Blogger’s new architecture to streamline the process for users, making it completely unnecessary for less experienced users to have to edit code.
Oh, what does the widget do? If you are sharing feed items, like some bloggers do, making a nice little link blog, you can use it to display the latest headlines to your blog readers. I’m hoping Reader adds a way to auto-post your new items to your blog daily, like del.icio.us does, and a way to get links in there that aren’t in your feed reader, and then it becomes a full-fledged del.icio.us killer.
UPDATE: Google Reader also now has the ability to run Flash video players inside the application. That means if a blog post has a video from YouTube, Google Video, Metacafe, Revver, Vimeo, Ifilm, or others, it will play within Google Reader. Cool.