Google has a good thing going in Google Reader, but the overhaul unveiled yesterday is both ugly and problematic.
Google Reader is one of my favourite Google tools. The RSS feed tool became invaluable to me when I was a budding journalism student a few years ago, and I've used it every day since to keep on top of news and blogs from across the world.
Even though the Reader was getting a bit visually dated by Google standards, especially since Gmail and Google Docs all received updates recently, Reader worked the way it was. That was until yesterday, when a cosmetic revamp came into effect.
To my horror at opening Reader yesterday, the page looked as if Google had become a bit carried away with the white-out, making the new Reader blindingly white and anything but readable. It wasn't just that, however; Google had also removed the sharing function in favour of integrating Google Reader with Google+.
I'm an early adopter of Google+, so having my shared items go through its fledgling social network is not that big of an issue for me. Thanks to the changes, however, I no longer see the shared content of friends of mine who were on Google Reader but aren't on Google+.
Angus Kidman at Lifehacker also has complaints about the new design, and has detailed some of the concerns he has with the redesign of Google Reader. Two of Kidman's issues relate to scrolling and article organisation on the home page of Google Reader, which I've always skipped to look directly at the items in my Reader feed.
As with the recent changes to Facebook, it's quite easy to dismiss complaints about changes to the user interface of a free service as just another #firstworldproblem, but given that there seems to have been widespread complaints about the redesign in just 24 hours, I hope Google is listening.
Unfortunately, if the blog post announcing the redesign is anything to go by, Google's attitude of "like it or leave" seems to be carrying over from Google+ to Google Reader:
We hope you'll like the new Reader (and Google+) as much as we do, but we understand that some of you may not. Retiring Reader's sharing features wasn't a decision that we made lightly, but, in the end, it helps us focus on fewer areas, and build an even better experience across all of Google.
For now, I'll probably just stick to using apps for Google Reader, with Reeder for the iPhone and iPad being — by far — my favourite.
What do you think of the changes to Google Reader? Do you use any alternatives?