A lot of people expect a redesigned Google Reader and the good news is that they won’t be disappointed: a new interface will be available next week. Google Reader is not dead, but the new interface couldn’t be released faster because the sharing feature had to be integrated with Google+.
My favorite feature of Google Buzz was that it automatically imported all the shared items from Google Reader and allowed your followers to discuss them. Now that Google Buzz will be discontinued, this feature will be available in Google+. Unfortunately, Google Reader will no longer have a standalone sharing feature, a separate list of followers and people you follow, a feed and a page for shared items. This is great if you are a Google+ user, since it simplifies sharing and makes Google Reader more consistent. If you don’t want to use Google+, you’ll still be able to share posts by email or using the “send to” feature, but these workarounds aren’t very useful for sharing a large number of posts.
The takeaway is that Google+ is not a distinct social service you can easily ignore, it’s a service that will be used for sharing photo albums, documents, videos, for posting blog comments and it will be very difficult to use Google without joining Google+ since, at some point, Google+ will be… Google itself.
“Many of Reader’s social features will soon be available via Google+, so in a week’s time we’ll be retiring things like friending, following and shared link blogs inside of Reader. We think the end result is better than what’s available today, and you can sign up for Google+ right now to start prepping Reader-specific circles. We recognize, however, that some of you may feel like the product is no longer for you,” mentions Google’s Alan Green. That’s the reason why you’ll be able to export your shared items, your starred and liked items, your list of friends from Reader’s settings page.
Google Reader’s sharing feature has always been difficult to use and the integration with Google+ will finally give Reader the opportunity to shine and show why it’s still a useful service. I’m sure that a lot of users will complain that they can’t use the old sharing feature, just like many YouTube users complained when Google migrated YouTube to Google Accounts. There’s a lot of value in having separate services with their own accounts, sharing features and friends lists, but switching to unified accounts, unified profiles, consistent sharing features makes Google’s services more useful because they work together, they combine their strengths and become easier to use.