Google Reader Changes Draw Ire in Iran, World

Google's changes to its Reader RSS application have sparked outrage from users all over the world. Even Reader's former product manager hates the alterations.

Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Reader upgrades, which include removal of the application's sharing features, are causing more than a little consternation among its loyal users.

Google alerted users about the upgrade over a week ago, but it wasn't enough to prepare them for the shock of losing some of the app's key features. Some of the millions of users of the RSS feed reader application are outraged at the jettisoning of friending, following, shared items and comments--the tools that lent a modicum of socialization to the popular program.

In the sharing tools place are the ability to +1 a feed story, which replaces the "Like" option in the service. Users may then share the item they +1ed with their Google+ social Circles.

"We hope you'll like the new Reader (and Google+) as much as we do, but we understand that some of you may not," wrote Google Reader software engineer Alan Green, in a gross understatement on the company's blog network. "Retiring Reader's sharing features wasn't a decision that we made lightly, but in the end, it helps us focus on fewer areas, and build an even better experience across all of Google."

Reader users who weren't big users of Reader's social features but who already share via Google +1 and Google+ may appreciate the new features, as well as the cleaner user interface. However, many do not.

An Iranian blogger who goes by the handle Amir, noted in a post that the newly quashed social features made Reader "much more than a simple RSS reader for Iranian users." After the June 2009 presidential election in Iran, the government there banned Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and scores of other social Websites. But not Reader.

"Google Reader is not in a separated domain (like any other Google product) and thanks to https protocol, it is hard to filter by government," Amir explained, adding that Reader acted as a news-sharing Website. " Easy access to Google Reader made it suitable for Iranian community and through all these years..."

The Google Reader Help forum is also alive with complaints about the changes. Reader user Martini-Corona wrote:

"My friends and I are freaking out over the recently-announced changes to Reader. Can't you all leave the social functions in place? As one friend put it: "I would like to continue to read interesting things that my friends have recommended, but not if that means I must also read about the completely uninteresting things they made for dinner/watched on TV/heard their kids say." In conclusion: AAAAAAHHHHHH."

There are also petitions to save Google Reader.

Capping off the criticism, former Google Reader Product Manager Brian Shih noted that the new Reader app is a "disaster."

"In the name of visual consistency, Google has updated the visual style to match Gmail, Calendar and Docs," Shih wrote on his personal blog Oct. 31. "I have nothing against visual consistency (and in fact, this is something that Google should be doing), but it's as if whoever made the update did so without ever actually using the product to, you know, read something."

The question now becomes: What will Google do about it? Answer: Likely, nothing. The company has made it clear that it is intent on weaving Google+ across all its applications and Web services. Keeping Reader's sharing tools along with the existing +1 button and Google+ sharing capabilities is redundant.

Redundancies go against the grain of Google CEO Larry Page's new bid to "put more wood behind fewer arrows," a philosophy that was urged by the late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs.

Users will likely have to get used to the changes or stop using the service, not unlike what happened with Google News after the company made several changes with that service.