Chrome "Follow" experiment brings Google Reader back from the dead

Almost eight years ago, Google retired its Google Reader service much to the dismay of its many users. Reasons presented for its demise varied but most of those revolved around how the open yet outdated RSS format has seemingly gone out of fashion in lieu of social media. Of course, RSS feeds are still alive and kicking and, almost ironically, Google is playing around with a Chrome feature that acknowledges that while somewhat bringing Google Reader back as a built-in feature in the web browser.

The principle behind RSS is pretty simple and predates the now-common "Subscribe" feature on many social platforms. An RSS or feed reader application or service, just like the old Google Reader, would regularly check for new articles that site owners and publishers have posted by updating their RSS feeds with the correct data and metadata. Depending on the app's settings, users will be able to read a condensed version of the content or even a full version, sometimes stripped down to text and images only.

The rise of social media seemingly put an end to that workflow with more and more people taking to Twitter and Facebook for their news and updates. Of course, that never happened and RSS is still in wide use today, even if not as widespread as before. Acknowledging that fact, Google's developers are doing an experiment that turns Chrome into an RSS reader as well, at least on Android.

Those using the unstable Canary version of Chrome for Android might see a "Follow" button in the browser's menu on web pages that offer RSS feeds so you don't have to hunt for the exact URL anymore. Whenever those pages have new content available, they will show up in a new Following section in Chrome's New Tab page.

Of course, this feature wouldn't just happen by magic and requires that site owners implement proper RSS support. Google does have guidance for those and will see if it catches on enough to roll it out to all Chrome users in the near future.