Google (NSDQ: GOOG), whose RSS reader is in a tight race with Bloglines, continues to try to refashion Google Reader into a social-sharing site. The latest examples: The company said this week that users of Google Reader would now be able to search for and then “follow” people who publicly share items via the site—meaning that they will be able to see all the items that those people choose to share. (See screenshot at left.) Google also said that people who want to share items publicly will now be able to limit access to specific groups. A third addition lets users flag items that they “like.”
Collectively, the changes suggest that Google has its eyes on social-networking sites as well as other services like Friendfeed that are increasingly being used to share news. Twitter, of course, has trailblazed the “follow” option, while Facebook is making it much easier for users to pick who they want to share content with and also mark updates as “like.”
Google’s past efforts to add sharing options to its Reader, however, have received a lukewarm response. The Google Operating System blog says they were “contrived, difficult to use and ... cluttered the interface.” The problem is that as Google adds the sharing features, it risks alienating its more traditional user base. According to data from Hitwise from last year, Google has been closing its gap with Bloglnes, although that site has had its own set of issues lately.
By Joseph Tartakoff