After teasing the service last Friday, AOL has begun to give beta access to some users for their new RSS Reader, appropriately titled AOL Reader. Upon first look, it's a basic, perfectly functional RSS reader that doesn't bring a whole lot of new features to the table (yet, at least), but will be familiar to Google Reader users.
You can request access at reader.aol.com.
As of right now, you can sign in with an AOL account or you can request access to the beta with another email address (I joined using my Gmail address).
Upon signing in and accessing the beta, AOL prompts you to get started by manually adding new subscriptions of importing from another RSS reader (Google Reader included).
After that, you'll be met with a familiar setup - a big list view of new article in your feeds. Like Google Reader and other readers, your specific RSS feeds will be accessible from the left-hand side, with articles appearing on the right-hand side. You can change the layout format to one of four different options: list view, card view, full view, and pane view. The reader also has some basic sorting options like view unread and sort by oldest or newest.
You can also star articles and sort by starred as well. Like most other readers, there's a "mark as read" feature as well.
Once you view an article inside AOL reader, you also have some social sharing options - Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, and of course, email.
Also, AOL Reader API is ready and free while the product is in beta.
Like I said before, the beta is currently pretty barebones, but clean and functional. AOL says that there are plenty of new features on the way, however, including sharing within AOL Reader and other RSS readers, search, notifications, and native iOS and Android apps.
As you know, Google Reader is shutting down for good on July 1st. It's not surprising that AOL decided to throw their hat in the ring - they've been surfacing and outputting content for years. But it could be a little late. The RSS reader-to-replace-Google-Reader battle already has a lot of participants. But it's a solid effort from AOL. As we say with most of these new RSS products (Digg's got one on the way) - we'll just have to wait and see how it shakes out.