New Google Reader Design: Yawn!

About half an hour ago, Scott Beale (aka Laughingsquid) tweeted this:

The article on the Google Reader blog confirms this news.

Right away, I rebooted my Firefox and checked it out. So what’s new? nothing much, really. The design is lighter, with a softer blue. The ‘add a subscription’ box is now on top of the sidebar. The ‘friends shared items’ is more visible… And that’s about it!

Unfortunately, when you go into the settings page, nothing has changed, and the tag management page is still a monumental mess. But it is a change, a good one, and usually a design change never comes for no reason.

In the past week, we have heard of two different products that could make the Greader feel like they need to react. One the PeopleBrowsr, first announced on Sunday by Robert Scoble, and which sparked quite a conversation on Friendfeed. The second reason is Helvetireader, a userscript that makes your Greader experience a breeze.

These two companies are a threat for Google Reader because, as we all know, as of today, feeds are just too geeky for mass adoption. Any RSS reader provider knows that the main challenge in their space is accessibility. Google Reader is a roaming engine under the hood, but its usability is still a little obscure, and as I mentioned above, the tag (or label) manager is hell if you don’t even know the point of tags in the first place.

It makes sense to think that the future of information will happen through feeds. Ideally, any given individual should build its own information resource through an RSS reader, to receive the news that matter to him/her. Making feeds accessible is a huge challenge. RSS is not as simple as its name implies. The first company that manages to offer an ease of use for RSS feeds will probably play a decisive part in the information landscape for the next 10 years.

In this frame of thoughts, Google Reader did add something significant: more feed bundles (that’s probably where any RSS reader business model lies). In other words, there are more groups of feeds suggested. That makes discovering new feeds easier. That also makes setting up and starting using a reader account faster.

I really don’t like this idea of suggested bundles. As Techcrunch underlines, the Techrunch feed is in the technology bundle. Yes, we know. And we also know this is the very reason why the Feedburner ticker on their page keeps going up. Some news providers are set by default in most RSS readers. To my opinion, this is the cornerstone of a new type of information monopoly.

Anyhow, the new design is not revolutionary, so I expect more additions to come in the near future.

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