Rediscovering Web Feeds with Google Reader

Back in the Good Old Days (2002) there weren’t all that many blogs around. I had one, Joe had one, and there were about 5 – 10 others I cared about reading. It was easy to keep up to date with these by just visiting the web pages now and then.

Very quickly though it became a bandwagon, and World + Dog were blogging, and lo a lot of interesting (and even more very uninteresting) content was put on this little thing I like to sometimes refer to as “t’interweb” (but only when I’m feeling northern.) It was hard to keep up with all of these sites, but thankfully RSS feeds and aggregators arrived to give a useful view into your personal web-wide-world.

Web feed aggregators (as I feel they ought to be called ever since Atom got in on the act) come in 2 flavours – desktop and web-based. Desktop aggregators typically win on usability (for a long time I used Omea Reader), wheras web-based apps win on not being tied to being installed on any one machine. Until recently, I hadn’t like the web-based aggregators I’d tried (Bloglines is one of the most popular), but Omea’s non-distributability caused me to give up on it, and web feeds in general for about a year.

I’ve recently got back into feeds though, thanks to yet another Google service – Google Reader. This to me offers a far better user experience than any of the other free web-based aggregators, and of course I can use it from any machine and still keep the state of what items I’ve read. I only came to Google Reader about a month ago, and I understand it has had a major overhaul this year so if you tried it a while a go and didn’t like it, it might be worth giving it another go.

Google Reader is not completely perfect. Apart from anything else, I feel it ought to be integrated with GMail (and Google Groups ideally), and it could do with some search functionality. It is a ‘proper’ Web 2.0 app (*ahem*) in that it also has social networking / sharing features, and like those in del.icio.us I mostly ignore them.

Of course, one of these days I’m going to end up with an hour-and-a-half long commute again and all of these web-based apps are going to bite me in the rear-end, but until then they’re doing me very well, thankyouverymuch.

Now if you’ll excuse me I need to go and listen to some more kittens.

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