Google ‘Experiments’ With Bringing RSS Capabilities Back to Chrome

Google Chrome product manager Janice Wong:

In the coming weeks, some Android users in the US on Chrome Canary may see an experimental Follow feature designed to help people get the latest content from sites they follow. Our goal for this feature is to allow people to follow the websites they care about, from the large publishers to the small neighborhood blogs, by tapping a Follow button in Chrome. When websites publish content, users can see updates from sites they have followed in a new Following section on the New Tab page.

Keeping a site’s RSS up-to-date will ensure Chrome can provide the latest content to users with this experiment. We will provide more guidance to web publishers as we learn and evaluate whether this feature will graduate from an experiment to a broader rollout in Chrome.

This looks like a bare-bones RSS reader baked into Chrome on Android — and that sounds great. I think this improves RSS’ discoverability problem by simplifying the standard to an unambiguous “follow” button. There’s no icon that looks like present-day Wi-Fi symbols, there’s no mention of “RSS” or “XML” or any of that stuff in the interface. That said, it is buried at the bottom of a long menu; you can’t win every battle.

It is, however, utterly hilarious to me that this is being billed as an “experiment”, as though following websites through RSS feeds is somehow novel. TechCrunch went a step further in its coverage and proclaimed that “Google revives RSS”, saying only “diehard news junkies kept holding on to their Feedly accounts and old copies of NetNewsWire” after Google killed Reader in 2013. That link points to the Wikipedia article for NetNewsWire, as though it is some forgotten relic of a medieval Slavic population and not perfectly modern software. What else can we do but worship Google for its undying commitment to the latest and greatest open web standards?