Posted in: google, google reader

Is Google Reader Google’s Best Social Application?

I read a lot of RSS feeds over the course of the day. I’m getting to the point where almost all the news I consume comes via RSS. I switched from Bloglines to Google Reader over a year ago and I think GR is a great tool. One of the common criticism I read about Google (and have made myself as a proud Google alum) is that the company doesn’t have a very rich stable of social media applications. In looking at all of the products that might qualify (GTalk, Orkut, etc), I think Google Reader is the best social media app in the Google portfolio today. In particular, I think Google Reader makes it amazingly easy to publish your own linkblog and linklblogs are really all about sharing content with others. The Reader team is also really engaged with the blogging/publishing community and does a good job of developing features that appeal to power RSS consumers and feed readers. The trend feature is super useful in pruning down the RSS feed list and also getting a sense for what I read on any given day.
The more I use Google Reader, the more I want to be able to use it to distribute stuff I find on the web that doesn’t already exist in RSS form – news articles, funny webpages, products, pictures, and videos. I don’t want to use a 3rd party client like Pownce or something like that — 80% of what I’d want to share is RSS so I want to be able to bolt on other content types on top of what I already like to do anyway.

On a somewhat unrelated note, my RSS feeds would be a much better seed for building out a personalization platform for web search than my web search history. My search history is varied – on any given day I could be looking for something on behalf of someone else, for work purposes, or just for fun. Building up a meaningful picture from that activity is hard. What I read and like to read is much more stable and woudl give you lots of info about my baseline interests.

Getting back to the point, I can think of 3 features that would really make Google Reader even better and more useful:

1. Feed Suggest – Suggest a few feeds to me every now and then based on the feeds to which I already subscribe. RSS feeds are just dying for better collaborative filtering tools.
2. Most Popular Feeds – Google Reader has enough market share to be able to give folks some sense as to some of the most popular feeds on the web based on subscriptions. That’s data I’d love to be able to check out.
3. Most Shared Items – Robert Scoble and others have already talked about this, but I make good use of the “share” feature in Google Reader and I’d be interested in seeing a lightweight version of Digg based on Google Reader shared items.
Have other ideas? Feel free to drop a note in the comments.