Tyler Barth

iOS developer and UX Designer

Missing Google Reader Sharing

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I really liked Google Reader’s share functionality because it made it very easy for my close friends and me to share links between each other. We were all “following” each other on Reader.

Before Google Reader

Before Google Reader, the old way of reading a shared link went something like this:

  • Come across the link on Facebook or Twitter or plain old e-mail
  • Be forced to make a decision on if you wanted to read it now or later
  • If later, you had manually add it into your own reading system (Instapaper, read it later)

This process is too active because the other person has to look for the link and then take some direct action to put it in their system.

The Old Google Reader

In contrast, the old Google reader system was passive. If you chose to follow me, then all my links came to you and were already in the reading system you were used to (and maybe you had keyboard shortcuts and iPhone apps to support it).

That system was, unfortunately, locked to Google Reader, but most of my friends were using Google Reader so it wasn’t a problem.

The New (not Improved) Way

Google recently redesigned Reader and tore out all of the old sharing functionality and replaced it with a poor visual design and some hacked on Google+ sharing features which they assumedly would prefer us to use.

If I really wanted to share my links with Google+ I would have already been sharing the links through Twitter or Facebook. Nevermind your feelings about Google+ as a social network, it is not a replacement for the previous Reader functionality. The previous sharing functionality put articles shared by friends directly into our reading system, and didn’t force a task change between “skimming social network” and “reading RSS feeds” which the new system does.

This change has understandly upset a lot of people who loved the previous functionality.


I tried to craft a solution using a Tumblr blog to create an RSS of a list of links, but that doesn’t solve one of the most critical features: full text RSS feeds could be shared with full text. This was zero-friction reading (combined with zero friction sharing with a single share button), and worked with peoples caching iPhone/Android Google Reader apps. Unless I manually copy and paste the text and repost it on my own site (which is questionable from a copyright standpoint), I can’t replicate this functionality.

The Future

We could wait for a competitor to come out with a new RSS feed service that offers the kind of sharing Google Reader had. This isn’t really satisfying, though, because I’ve already paid for a nice Google Reader iPhone app, and because the website works fine except for the crappier sharing functionality. Also, I don’t want to have to convince all my friends to jump ship.

I think the best solution we can hope for is that Google further integrates Google+ with Reader. Add a tab to Google Reader that lets you browse your friend’s Google+ posts as if they’re RSS feeds.

This wouldn’t please everybody. Some peoples’ use of Reader share functionality apparently isn’t replicable using Circles. For me, though, I’ve got no problem using Google+’s circle metaphor to create a sharing circle. I just want to read the shares in Google Reader, not as links in a stream of status updates.