Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) is removing social features of its Google Reader application in preparation of the RSS feed reader's imminent integration with the Google+ social network, the company said Oct. 20.
Google Reader lets users subscribe to receive links to content from some of their favorite news sources, including blogs and traditional publications. One the darlings of Internet geeks, RSS readers have been cast aside by more forward-looking digerati for Twitter and other real-time services, including Facebook and Google+.
To that end, Google will retire friending, following and shared links to blogs in Reader, which like Google Search, Gmail and Maps before it, is also getting a brand-new design. That redesign will include tight integration with Google+, which the search engine provider is making the focal point of its social software tools.
"We're going to bring Reader and Google+ closer together, so you can share the best of your feeds with just the right circles," wrote Google software engineer Alan Green in a blog post, adding that Reader users can start creating Reader-centric Circles on Google+.
Google recognizes that there is an inherent risk in angering some users by quashing Reader's social features, so the company is letting users export their subscriptions, shared items, friends, likes and starred items.
However, users already follow and share links on Google+ through the Circles sharing construct, so enabling users to easily share Reader blog posts and news stories in Google+ should be a natural activity for most users. Indeed, Reader's integration with Google+ merely continues the pattern Google has created in integrating the social network with the company's search, YouTube, Gmail and other existing tools.
Google+ is getting traction, having accrued over 40 million users since launching in late June. Users have also shared more than 3.4 billion photos in the last 100 days.
With Google+, the search provider is engaging rival Facebook in the war for users' attention. Incumbent network Facebook has more than 800 million users, some of whom use the service an average of eight hours per month. That's a lot of eyeballs, time and ad clicks that Google is not getting.
Google+ is getting several enhancements over the coming weeks, said Vic Gundotra, the Google senior vice president tasked with running the Google+ effort.
For example, Google+ will eventually enable users to publish content under pseudonyms, allow businesses to build brand pages and integrate with Google Apps. Perhaps most importantly, Google will release APIs to allow developers to build applications that work with Google+. Ultimately, Google+ will be woven across all of Google's Web services.
"By Christmas, you'll start to see it all come together," Gundotra promised at the Web 2.0 Summit.