Aside from Google's Gmail service, the one Google product I rely on the most is Google Reader. It is an absolutely essential tool that I use every single day to stay abreast of all the information I need to effectively report on the mobile telecommunications industry. Reader has been unchanged by Google for so long that I've fine-tuned how and when I use the service to an art form. I've long considered myself a master of Google Reader's inner workings.
Now, I am a newb all over again, and I am ticked off about it. I'm not the only one complaining, either.
First, Google gave Reader's general appearance a make-over. It now falls in-line with some of Google's other services that have seen make-overs of late, such as Gmail, Docs, and Calendar. They all match the general look of Google's Google+ social network, with a black bar running across the top, larger buttons, and more white space. I can get over these aesthetic changes. I don't necessarily like them, but I can deal.
Second, Google nixed one of Reader's neat features--the ability to subscribe to the feeds of other individuals and share posts back and forth. This social-networking-style feature was a critical reason I use Reader, and now it is gone.
Instead, Google wants everyone to share posts to Google+. While I totally get the thinking behind a move like this--if it can't increase Google+'s usership organically, why not force people to use it?--sacking the way it worked entirely is just not cool.
So, with these and other tweaks made by Google in mind, here are three critical things that Google need to fix right away.
1. Speed It Up
I don't know what the hell happened, but the new Google Reader is slower than a turtle stuck in a puddle of industrial-strength epoxy. Everything about it is slow. Feeds are slow to refresh, new items are slow to open, and pretty much every time I press a button I have to wait five to 30 seconds for something to happen.
Not cool, Google. You used to be all about speed, so where did this glacial-like performance come from?
2. Make It Actually Work As It Is Supposed To
I subscribe to about 115 different feeds in Reader. I generally plow through several thousand headlines per day. When I mark items as read, I need them to stay marked as read. When I star an item, I need it to remain starred. When I hit the refresh button, I actually expect Reader to refresh.
With the new Reader, all these actions are inconsistent. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don't. At one point yesterday, I read through about 75 items before lunch. I read them one at a time, marking each "read" as I went. After lunch, I returned to Reader to see I had about 150 unread stories. I started digging in, only to find that half of them I'd already read before lunch and were suddenly marked unread again.
Not cool, Google. I don't have time like that to waste during the day. Make it work right.
3. Bring Back Shared Feeds
This is essential. There were several feeds that I subscribed to from individuals that were an absolutely vital part of my informational flow. Now, I no longer have access to those feeds. Instead, Google hopes that I'll watch those same people in Google+ to see what they share publicly. Only these were private feeds meant pretty much only for me. In the 36 hours or so that I've been using the new Reader, I've been unable to access these feeds or find alternatives that are as easy to use.
Not cool, Google. You've killed how I collect information from critical sources. Bring this feature back, immediately.
The bottom line here is that Google has messed up the performance and behavior of a business tool I use day in and day out to get my job done. The changes have had a drastic effect on my productivity.
That's just not acceptable.