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The Google Reader team has announced a new way to make RSS feeds. Sometimes you visit a site and there is no feed available. If you want to stay informed when updates are made to the site, there are a few tools that will provide you with an email or alert. You can now create feeds in Google Reader which will show updates to the pages you are interested in following.
If you manage your RSS feeds using Google Reader, adding a webpage feed alert is as simple as adding the webpage to the “add a subscription” option on the left menu. Once you add a webpage, Google will try to find a feed and if they are unsusccessful, you will be prompted to create an alert feed.
The result (a sample is displayed below) isn’t as pretty as a standard RSS feed but works if all you want is an alert when content on the desired page has changed. This could work very well for product pages or to follow price changes for products you are interested in. A few people have noted that this is a good way to keep tabs on your competition.
As a publisher, you can opt-out if you don’t want Google to create feeds using this new service.
Over the past few weeks I’ve been keeping track of the different ways each Google service handles login procedures. I would have thought that once I am “cookied” by a Google service that all services would authenticate my session in the same manner — this is not the case. Below are some of the Google services and what happens when I attempt to load the service assuming that I am already cookied.
- Gmail – takes me right into my mailbox with no login screen
- Google Checkout – forces me to enter my password each time but displays my username
- Feedburner – takes me directly into the my main list of managed feeds
- Google AdSense – displays a login page but the login box is missing and a “waiting” note and then I am taken directly into my account
- Google AdWords – takes me directly to my management screen
- Google Webmaster – displays a similar screen to Google AdSense but I am forced to click the login button but am never prompted for a password
- iGoogle – takes me directly to my customized home page
- YouTube - clicking upload takes me directly to the upload screen
- Google Reader – takes me directly to my RSS feeds
- Orkut - takes me directly to my account management page
- Google Groups – takes me to my groups management page
- Google Docs – takes me directly to my documents management page
- Google Calendar – takes me directly to my calendar
- Blogger – forces me to login using my Google account information
At first I was thinking that it’s great that Google forces me to enter my password when I want to process orders for my startup in Google Checkout. But if that’s the case, shouldn’t Google AdSense follow the same authentication pattern? What about Google Docs and Calendar – documents in both of those services could be just as sensitive as financial information in Google Checkout/AdSense or AdWords.
Continue reading “Why Doesn’t Google Consolidate Login Procedures?” »
Over the weekend CN reader Daniel Hallac and I have been chatting about something he found while browsing CN on his iPhone. Daniel was reading a story in Google Reader and wanted to comment so he clicked from the story to CN. What he found when he reached CN was an "old-style" mobile page (see the screenshots below). The URL in the window was that of Google with a redirection link to CN. After some investigation, it turns out that Google Reader defaults outbound links to use a reformatted option (see arrow in image below).
Should Google Reader still default to this archaic option? On Daniel’s iPhone is a very slick Web browser. Why shouldn’t he get the full experience. From the feedback I’ve received, most users don’t know that this option even exists to turn off in Google Reader. On my Windows Mobile device I am running Opera Mobile and Skyfire – both browsers that can run full, rich Web experiences. I would also get some old-style mobile IE browsing option if clicking from a Google Reader link on my mobile.
Some of the chatter about the resize option seems to indicate Google made this a default to save on mobile bandwidth usage. Today most users are on unlimited plans on 3G networks and there’s just no reason to remove most of the usability and ability to interact with a Web site anymore. Let’s not forget that these resized Web pages are also completely running under the Google framework which allows Google to track all of the interactions.
From a Web publisher perspective, the resize option removes many of the potential monetization options for the content being requested. In the example below, all of the dynamic ads are removed and only the CN sponsor ads are displayed. The ads that are on the page are so poorly displayed that I doubt any reader would interact with them. What’s really interesting is that so many publishers use Google AdSense on their sites – this "resize" option also hurts the potential for Google to monetize sites as their ads don’t display either.
Clearly Google could check to see if the mobile device has a rich-media Web browser installed and if so, turn off the "resize" option for mobile browsing. It would be a substantially better experience for both readers and for Web publishers.
For the last week or so, I have been playing with Google Reader. Google Reader is Google’s simplistic online feed reader, meaning you can save all of your RSS feeds, and view them from any computer, that has an internet connection. This is Google’s attempt to get itself into the, already, saturated online feed reader market. I think they did an “OK” job, but it’s really nothing special, just another feed reader.
If you don’t know what a feed reader is, it’s quite simple. Basically it takes an RSS feed from a website, and each time the website updates, it sends the update right to your feed reader. Google Reader tries to make the whole thing like email, every time something updates, you get an ‘email-like’ update. At least that is the sense that I get from Google Reader.
Honestly there really isn’t any innovation with Google Reader, it is just like any other feed reader. The only thing that really sticks out is usability. It’s very simplistic, and easy to use. Google clearly spent a lot of time, working on the user experience.
Despite the great, and unmatched usability, the design ‘lacks’ in terms of being new, flashy, and hip, just like most other Google products out there. If you ask me, they should go out, and hire an awesome designer, and then they could pump out great web apps, that actually look great, as well as are easy to use.
So Google Reader works with all the main browsers, so there’s no problem there. Meaning, you can use Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, and even Opera. It’s a great solution if you’re looking for an online feed reader. The only real downside is the design, which is very Google like.
Right now, Google Reader is plain and simple, there’s really no added functionality to it, besides being a basic feed reader. I think that it would be nice to see them add a few new features, perhaps something for podcasting, where you could listen via a flash player, right in the web page. Maybe add a skinning feature, where people could skin their own theme.
All I know is that if Google lets Google Reader sit, without anything new, any longer, the competitors in the field are going to take all of its users. Right now, I would have to put Bloglines on my favorite feed reader list, as far as online feed readers go. If Google could change a few things up, I may just change my mind.
But until then, Google Reader is just that.. a plain ol’ feed reader.