Yesterday Last week, Google announced Google Reader, an online RSS reader. As you'd expect from a Google product, the interface is clean and makes ample use of AJAX to get the clunk out. I've been a NetNewsWire fan for some time, but I've recently been considering moving to an online reader, more as an experiment than anything else. Thus, the announcement of Google's reader gave me perfect opportunity.
If you have a GMail account, then you already have an account for GReader. Of course, when you first go there, you'll not have any subscriptions. I had recently exported my subscriptions (in OPML) from NetNewsWire, so I used Google Reader's import feature to slurp them all in. GReader doesn't load the RSS immediately, but only shows you items from that point forward. You can choose to load past items on feed by feed basis, but that's not the best experience.
But this morning, when I clicked out to GReader, I had a bunch of items. The items from all your feeds are listed on the left sorted by date or by relevance. I'm not sure what "relevant" means in this context, but a little experimentation will probably tell me whether I like it better than date. The content of the item you're reading is on the right and there's a funky"lens" kind of thing to tie the two together. Funky, but effective.
Speed is phenomenal--better than NetNewsWire running on my 1.67 GHz/2Gb PowerBook and the transitions from item to item are smooth, thanks to AJAX. There are links to GMail and Blogger so that you can email or blog an item. The GMail link is nice, but I didn't think the formatting of the resulting email was all that great. Keyboard shortcuts allow the most common actions to happen fast and conveniently.
Every item has a place to enter "labels" but it wasn't clear to me what those were for. I couldn't see anywhere else they showed up in the interface. Sometimes an item has "author's labels." I presume this is creating a folksonomy.
In addition to being able to import OPML, the subscriptions interface provides a way to add and delete feeds, as you'd expect. Clicking on a subscription allows you to read just the items in that subscription. There's also a filter box. I didn't find this to be very helpful. I've got about 60 feeds and I know what they are, being able to sort them by name or date added seemed adequate. As far as I could tell, there's no way to search a global list of feeds and select one in the subscriptions interface, but at the top of the page is a "search for new content" box that returns a result list with "subscribe" buttons.
At present, there are no ads in GReader, but there's no reason they couldn't be added later. Certainly, an RSS reader fits into the Google strategy of getting people to do their computing on Google where Google can watch, learn, and customize what you see.
For now, I've decided to stick with GReader. It's fast and slick--just what I'm looking for.