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What is Google Reader?

written by: Arnold Zafra•edited by: Lamar Stonecypher•updated: 4/11/2013
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Google Reader was a web-based feed aggregator that could read both Atom and RSS feeds, whether your computer is online or offline. Unfortunately, Google Reader is being shut down on July 1, 2013.

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    Editor's Note: Google Reader is being shut down on July 1, 2013. Users are encouraged to use Google Takeout in order to transfer their accounts to other RSS feeds. This article was orginally published in 2010 and has been archived but left up for informational purposes.

    Google Reader is a web-based feed aggregator that can read both Atom and RSS feeds, whether your computer is online and offline. To quote the official description from Google: "Google Reader is a tool for gathering, reading, and sharing all the interesting blogs and websites you read on the web."

    It was released on October 7, 2005 through Google Labs and graduated in beta status on September 17, 2007.

    While many have criticized Google Reader on the merit of it being a an RSS Reader, through the years, these criticisms have died down and perhaps in the absence of a better alternative, Google Reader became the choice feed aggregator for many.

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    Features of Google Reader

    What I like about Google Reader is the fact that it is a product in continuing evolution. We know how Google treats all of its web-based products - that is they continually improve them and won't stop until they have reached perfection.

    Google Reader may not be near perfect but it is definitely a great piece of work laden with so many great features including:

    • A search facility that crawls through your subscribed feeds and their updates
    • A facility for automatically marking news items as read when you scrolled past them
    • A choice between browsing your news feeds in either list or expanded view
    • A handy set of keyboard shortcuts that makes navigation a breeze
    • A facility for importing and exporting subscription lists as OPML file
    • A front page that could serve as your browser start-up page
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    Other Features of Google Reader

    Aside from the key features we just listed, Google Reader has more important features that make it stand out from the other web aggregators available online.

    One of these features is Google Readers Sharing feature. This feature used to be done through email but as Google Reader evolved, you can now share items automatically to your Google contacts.

    Then through the use of its Gears tool, Google has also enabled Offline Access for Google Reader. This answered the request of many who access their Google Reader account on a computer with slow internet speed. This feature allows you to download up to 2,000 feed items that you can read offline. The feeds automatically updates the next time you go online.

    Google Reader also has a mobile interface that supports XHTML or WAP 2.0. In addition there is also an existing native Google Reader app for the iPhone aside from the mobile access embedded on the Google Mobile app.

    Google also lets you discover new feeds to subscribe to as well as add notes to share items, easily.

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    What Lies Ahead for Google Reader?

    Like I said, Google Reader is a continuously evolving web-based product. As such, Google never seemed to run out of ideas to improve its functionality. Although there are possibly still many things to enhance when it comes to performance and functionality, Google Reader as it is right now is one of the best, if not the best web-based feed aggregator.

    Possible enhancements could go in the way of full integration with other related Google products as well as other social web applications. With the way things are going on right now, Google Reader has the potential to become an all-in-one web-based social application.

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