Google+ Architect Asks What People Liked about Google Reader (for Future Reference)

    March 15, 2013
    Josh Wolford

As you probably know, Google is shutting down Google Reader on July 1st.

And today, the senior engineer on the Google+ team is asking Google+ users to tell him exactly what they love about Google Reader, because he would “like to integrate those ideas into future versions of many Google products, and try to capture that value.”

Earlier today, Yonatan Zunger asked this question of his followers:

“I have a question for avid Google Reader users: what are the aspects of the way Reader works that made it so useful for you? I’ve heard a number of things floated in the past day — e.g., the particular sources available, the way of managing read/unread state, various aspects of the UI — but I’d like to understand better what the concrete things about Reader were which people found the most useful, because I’d like to integrate those ideas into future versions of many Google products, and try to capture that value.”

The responses have come fast and furious. Furious being the key word here. Zunger had to make an edit to his post, stating that:

Warning: This is not a thread to simply complain about the shutdown, or to ask Google to keep Reader. That’s not something that I can help you with, nor is it a decision that I had anything to do with, and this is not a good place to get anyone’s attention about that. This thread is a place to talk about specific things which are useful about it so that we can think about good ways to capture that usefulness in the modern world.”

Some of the comments suggest that the most popular aspect of Google Reader is its simplicity.

“Simple logical layout. I always read in the minimal format- if a headline caught my interest I would expand. If further description really caught my attention, I would share out. Each of these functions were nested within each other, matching my increasing interest,” said one user.

“A big part of why I never hesitated to stop using it even being an early adopter of G+ was it’s clean interface. Even using sparks (I think that’s the name) wasn’t clean. It didn’t have the efficient notifications of new articles/post/content.,” said another.

Yesterday, a former Google product manager said that he thinks Google Reader’s demise is all tied up in Google+. His argument was that the Google Reader shutdown likely has nothing to do with operating costs. In fact, it more likely has to do with Google wanting to move resources into Google+.

Ars Technica, among others, suggested that Google Reader (or at least some sort of Google RSS feed product) could wind up, in some incarnation, as a part of Google+.

But for now, this is simply the chief architect for Google+ asking people to tell him what they like about Reader.