Eight years after the untimely demise of Google Reader, Google is embracing RSS again. The company is testing a "Follow" button for Chrome that lets you keep up with your favorite sites on the web browser. In the coming weeks, users of the Chrome Canary channel for developers should start seeing the new feature on Android. Google's Adrienne Porter Felt tweeted that the follow feed is based on RSS and that the company is building it to address a "user need."
Alas, the announcement was met with pushback and sarcasm from those still pining over Google Reader. In a curt reply, one Twitter user said: "so, it’s google reader, but shittier." Another blamed Google for trying "to kill rss hype 15 years back, but when it couldn't, it reused it!" While news aggregator Feedly shared a tongue-in-cheek response, tweeting: "great news, we’re excited!" Others, however, welcomed the news by sharing constructive feedback and requesting an iOS version.
For now, the follow button is firmly in the experimental stage. Felt added that the feature primarily relies on RSS to pull content from sites, but can also grab additional info using the crawler. Ruling out email newsletters, Felt said places like Substack that include a web version of the newsletter should work. Google is recommending sites keep their RSS feed up-to-date so that Chrome can grab the latest content. It's also asking for input from publishers, bloggers, creators and netizens.
News of the feature arrives on the heels of Google's I/O 2021 conference, where it revealed a torrent of new products including the next versions of Android and Wear OS, along with updates for Photos, Maps and Search.