Monday, October 17, 2005

Test Drive: Google Reader Provides User-Friendly Browsing of Online Subscription Channels

A week on the road with EUR10/hr. Web access at your hotel doesn't encourage much time for exploration, so it's with some pleasure that I find myself scrambling to catch up with the latest in content tools. The new Google Reader contrasts favorably with Inform.com for ease of use and an open search-oriented approach to finding content feeds that can be easily navigated, updated, bookmarked, emailed and blogged. Handy shortcut keyboard strokes cut down on mouse fatigue and the headlines from a given feed scroll nicely down the left side while excerpts from the original source appear in the main window with click-throughs to the original items on the Web without framing. The searching mechanism picks up RSS feeds, but also picks up non-RSS sources that can be parsed for update streams easily. While the package lacks some of the robust portal features of a myYahoo service it's a smooth and easy-to-use package for managing online content subscriptions that plays nicely with publishers by supporting access to original content formats. It takes the "geek" out of RSS while leaving room for other methods of accessing content on a subscription basis that are not necessarily RSS-based. Some seem to have complained about its over-simplicity, but my guess is that the strength of its core design will have a broadening appeal to users thirsting for a widening range of content sources.
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