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Thursday, March 11, 2010

Google Reader comes out to Play

Google recently released into Labs a new Google Reader service called Google Play. The product is an experimental new method of exploring Google Reader. It lines up a list of recommended items it thinks you might be interested in based on your feeds, and gives them to you in something similar to a slideshow. Furthermore, with each item it gives you the option to share, star, or like a post, much like users already do in the regular Google Reader interface. Google might just be on to something with Google Play. It is the first service I have seen where they really hit it off on a sleek user interface, easy to use controls, and interesting content all in one place.

When you first start Google Play, you'll probably notice that for the first time Google has employed an entirely black background, with the entire screen dedicated to presentation, and only a small bar at the bottom for navigation (and even that can be hidden). I am a big fan of sleek and easy to use interfaces, without distractions. And to have my data served up in an easy to use slideshow format, with no distracting tools, no distracting background images, just the feed and three actions you can do on the posts (star, like, share), just makes it so much easier on me when trying to pay attention to one post as a time. It is this precise type of interface that Apple attracted users with: round edges and not a lot of options. Though I can imagine people will complain about how you cannot customize your Play experience, I really like how Google laid everything out neatly and in an organized fashion.

Google Play can be used for any of your feeds. If you click the arrow to the right of a feed title in normal Google Reader, you can select "View in Reader Play". Or, you can let Google do all the work and make a impromptu feed with posts that Google Reader recommends to you based on your interests. It is similar to how Pandora makes a radio station for you, and you tailor the music to your needs by liking the good songs. The same applies to Play: just like the feeds you like, and Google will provide more relevant and interesting content.

The way I see it is that Google Play is the fun side of Reader. So you ran through the massive feed data in all of your different folders, you shared the good stuff, liked what you liked, and made some comments, but now you are just looking for interesting things to read at your own pace. Rather than having a feed with twenty new posts to read, Google Play allows you to view each post individually, one at a time, all the while watching your behavior to make sure it is giving you information most relevant to your interests. Personally I just started using the feature and I like it already. It is more of a constant stream of interesting data rather than folders of feeds of posts, all with something you may or may not want to read.

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