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September 5, 2007

Reading Reactor (or a Google Reader Update)

A Google Reader update, released to a select number of users, solved a weird annoyance and added a long-existing feature to the interface. (Update: The new release is live and it also includes the most requested feature - search.)

Apparently, Google Reader learned to count to 1,000, which is a major improvement if we consider that Google Reader was only able to count to 100. More exactly, all the feeds, folders and other views showed 100+ if you had more than 99 unread items. I wonder if this is a technical limitation or Google is afraid we're not able to handle the information overload.

The other feature lets you hide the sidebar by clicking on a small arrow, like in Google Maps. You can already do this by typing u, but who's going to remember all the keyboard shortcuts? (You don't have to remember them. Google Reader is probably the only major web applications that makes it a piece of cake to see the available shortcuts: just type ?)

Like any grown-up Google product, Reader will also add support for multiple languages and remove all the icons reminiscent of Google Labs. Google Reader is now more than a feed reader, it's responsible for almost anything related to feeds at Google: from iGoogle to the feed API. After all, it started as an Atom parser in JavaScript that became a 20% project.

"[Aaron Boodman] let me know (I'm paraphrasing) that I was missing the big picture and that a reading tool would be more useful if its model started with the item (not the source) as a building block and allowed items to be interleaved and maybe even ranked and recommended to other people. Our conversation meandered into comparing certain views to television as TV channels are important but not as important to viewers as the shows themselves," describes Chris Wetherell the initial vision.

Hopefully, this vision will continue to guide Google Reader. Ranking, filtering, recommending help you see the most important information and obtain a personalized view for your feeds. Google Reader could truly become a reactor by reacting to your signals and to external signals (Reactor is Google Reader's codename).

{ Screenshot licensed as Creative Commons by Dan Ox. Tip from Tom Schenk Jr. Special thanks to Justin Blanton. }


  1. Darn -- I really love this exact count. Yesterday I had this new feature for about an hour, then it disappeared again.

  2. I had the exact same thing as newspaperman happen. The new feature showed up last night, and was gone by this morning.

  3. It would appear that this update broke reader in Opera. How difficult is it to test in multiple browsers?!?

  4. No way! I have search up top as well today! :)

  5. I confirm Search - it's great! - we've been waiting for so long..

  6. Yep, I can see all three of these features. I also noticed yesterday that the "Loading..." message had moved to a little yellow box at the top.

  7. Got em all here too. Search! Finally! Been wanting search feature soo bad.

  8. Unfortunately, the updated Google Reader does not play friendly with the lovely Google Reader Theme by Jon Hicks ( which I have been taking for granted.
    From what I can see, it is merely a few misalignments of various elements (I think mostly because of the introduction of the search field and the minimize-sidebar button), so I hope it won't be long before the theme is adjusted too!

  9. I'm ecstatic about search finally being here. Good news.

  10. Apenas ví esta mañana el Reader, me llamaron la atención esas mejoras… Muy bien por Google!
    Ahora se necesitan un par de cosas más…
    1- Poder renombrar los tags (y esconderlos a todos con un más (+) en el panel derecho).
    2- Que haya una papelera.
    3- Que haya distintos destacados con estrella (add star), puede ser estrellas de distintos colores o cambiar estrellas por números.
    4- Más opciones de compartidos (share) por si hay varios blogs en los cuales compartir.
    5- Posibilidad de hacer backup (podría usarse el protocolo POP3).
    6- Que esté también en español.