Google Releases RSS Reader

By Nathan Weinberg

Google has released an RSS reader. It is a beta, in Google Labs. I’ll try to review it tomorrow, but in the last hour of tinkering with it, I have never been so frustrated with a product. Nothing works the way it is supposed to, whole features are broken, importing fails, and usability decisions boggle the mind.

If I didn’t feel like I had to write a review for this blog, I wouldn’t even give the Google Reader a second glance. It is the opposite of the kind of software I prefer using, and I won’t be switching anytime soon. I’ll explain why when I get back tomorrow. Maybe someone else wants to give it a shot?

UPDATE: I really have to leave, but I feel obligated to explain my feelings. I just don’t like the Reader. Maybe it has to grow on you, but if an hour of attempting to use it leaves me frustrated and angry, it can’t be good, can it?

It doesn’t work in Opera.
It gives error after error in IE.
It doesn’t let you browse.
New items don’t dissapear.
Labels are confusing for feeds.
When you click on a feed, the feed list dissapears. When you click on the box up top to view your feeds, the feed items dissapear.
Feed search only gives you one page of results.

I’m thinking Google tried to reinvent the wheel, and what it wound up with was a square. Revolutionary, maybe. But squares don’t roll.

I don’t like this form factor. It is a far cry from the ease of Bloglines. If Bloglines adopted this interface, I’d switch. Maybe new users will like it, but I can’t.

I can’t fully explain why I don’t like it, because I don’t like it for so many reasons. Every decision made in the design of this Reader is the opposite of how things should work. Google seems obsessed with AJAX over usefulness. If this is the sign of a Google OS, who the hell is going to ever want to use it?

October 7, 2005 by Nathan Weinberg in:

14 Responses to “Google Releases RSS Reader”

  1. Philipp Lenssen Says:

    Maybe those who don’t use Bloglines find fewer usability problems, because they have different expectations (they don’t expect it to look like Bloglines). I’m not sure if that’s the cause. I did notice some usability problems as well though and compiled my points here:

  2. dxOne Says:

    it needs work. a lot.
    there is users respond. now we must wait for improvements.

  3. matt Says:

    My main problem with it is that it doesn’t seem to have anywhere even close to the amount of hardware it needs powering it. The interface is freaking crawling, errors out constantly (especially when trying to add a single feed) and it’s OPML import … well, sucks. It picked up like 20 of my mere 50 feeds that I track. It also seems to be picky about feed versions it support which is well … bad for a feed reader.

    Gotta admit, when I heard they’d opened this my hopes went way up, and I kind of feel like they just got shattered on the floor.

    I’m sure some people are going to say things like “Well, it is in beta ya know…” Well, I don’t really give a you-know-what. Google hides behind the word Beta too often. If they don’t want to risk me and others blasting their product, keep it in house until it’s actually ready for the public and you’re ready to devote the resources needed to make it successful.

    Two thumbs down and a kick in the rear to Google for their eternal-beta philosophy.

  4. Brock Says:

    This thing is terrible. I’ll be nicer in my feedback, to avoid discouraging them, but wow. Worst RSS reader ever.

  5. Alex K Says:

    I’m tired to see Google trying to do everything. Focus on search stupid.

  6. Nathan Lanier Says:

    It really is bad, save the flash audio player.

  7. Nicholas Says:

    What?!? Wha!?

    This thing is freaking awesome! Tottally bad-ass. There’s only a handful of Google products that I actually use, and they completely blow away the competition (gmail, search, and google maps). Reader is defitely going to be added to that list.

    I think everyone got turned off because for the first few hours it was dead in the water. I just got back on it, it’s blazing. Super fast. I don’t know if that’s because Google added more backend, or because everyone got off of it.

    Anyway, a lot of Nathan’s initial complaints are in fact addressed. There’s an option ” Show read items: hidden - visible ” at the bottom of the left hand side. I think labels make more sense for feeds than anything else.

    I just feel like everyone is going to be eating their words. Man, I love this product. I’ve never been able to use a feed-reader before because they all haven’t met my needs or wants, but this one does.

  8. Coolz0r Says:

    I think it’s far too early to have a decent review, because the beta is too fresh. But I’ll give it my first impression and tell you what I encountered. Adding feeds is easy, but if I add mine it says all of my entries are posted on October 7th. I have no entries for that day. Small bug.
    The other feeds I entered looked fine.

    Then I wanted to search through the added feeds for some topics, but that doesn’t seem to be possible yet. I also noticed something I know from Gmail, which is the ability to label things, but that seems I bit unneeded. I’m not going to use that, although possibly somebody else will think it’s brilliant. I haven’t got time to label everything I read.

    Sorting by relevance or date returns exact the same thing. Maybe I should try adding other feeds to see what this actually does, but I just don’t want to.

    I can star entries, but I don’t know why I should do that. (same for the labels)

    It looks Googly, and that’s a good thing, because you sort’o feel ‘at home’. But I don’t think I’ll be using it. I wonder if they will eventually remove entries, or if it’ll be like GMail, and everything ‘cached’ and gathered will remain in the reader. Then I could have like hundreds of starred entries and a load of things I’ll probably never read again. Slick but buggy. They should’ve waited longer before they released this, but the world was begging (bugging) Google for it, so I can understand that given the circumstances or context, they needed to show us they were actually busy creating this. I hope the release of the beta doesn’t mean they’ll put the development on hold.

  9. CJ Says:

    At first, the thing was really slow and it SUCKED.

    Now that it is much more responsive, give it another shot and I’m sure you’ll like it more. You might not like it better than what you currently use, but you’ll like it better than your initial reaction.

    IMHO, the Google Reader is great. No download, and my feeds are stored on servers so any computer with Internet access has my choices.

  10. Trevor Says:

    I don’t like it. Compared to Bloglines, the interface isn’t organized very well. Sorting on “date” or “relevance” isn’t enough. I have over 60 feeds all categorized in bloglines and picking a category in the google reader isn’t very intuitive. I’m sure after a few updates it could be better, but this initial release needs a lot of work.

  11. Google Reader Reviewed, Part Two » Solution Watch Says:

    […] Supposedly, Google Reader is not that compatible with some browsers. Nathen Weinberg has pointed out some issues that it does not work in Opera and has many errors in Internet Explorer. I have also received comments about Sarfari problems. It seems like the interface works fine in Safari, but the real problem is when you go to import OPML files and it’s rendering does not fully work. I have also noticed in Firefox times of warped design. Just small of alignments of boxes and things of that nature. Nothing too bad for Firefox. […]

  12. Jessu Says:

    Good to see another rss reader. But as of now it is very slow, and generating some errors. Seems the over use of Ajax is the reason..

    I would like to stick on with FeedFeeds ( ) which gives more flexibility.

  13. Google Vs » Blog Archive » 100 Google Blog Search Urls About “Him” Says:

    […] Google Releases RSS Reader […]

  14. Coolz0r - Marketing Thoughts » Google’s RSS Reader in Beta Says:

    […] Philipp is quite optimistic about this. Nathan on the other hand encountered a totally Boogle experience. He’s an Opera user and the reader’s not compatible, for starters. Other remarks at [InsideGoogle] : “I’m thinking Google tried to reinvent the wheel, and what it wound up with was a square. Revolutionary, maybe. But squares don’t roll. I don’t like this form factor. It is a far cry from the ease of Bloglines. If Bloglines adopted this interface, I’d switch. Maybe new users will like it, but I can’t.” […]

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