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Blogger backlash erupts over revamp of Google Reader

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(Google Reader)

Google unveiled a redesign of its RSS reader, Google Reader, on Monday. For a small but fervent group of dedicated users, the changes were not welcome.

When the search giant (a competitor of Yahoo's, it should also be disclosed) announced the changes last week, unhappy users launched an online petition urging the company to bring back the old version, even before Google's engineers had rolled out the new one.  Some users even protested in front of Google's Washington, D.C., offices--carrying signs that read "Google: Don't Mark All as Read," and "We are the 1000+."

The main issue for most of the new Reader dissidents is the service's wider integration with the Google+ social network. Google Reader's sharing functions will now be done through Google+--and that shift will force current users to use Google+.

"Integrating with Google+ also helps us streamline Reader overall," Alan Green, an engineer at Google, explained in a blog post. "So starting today we'll be turning off friending, following, shared items and comments in favor of similar Google+ functionality."

Here's the argument from the protest group's Facebook page:

Google has decided--without any user consultation--to effectively kill our beloved Google Reader, and force us all to use G+ in its stead. Without any of the functionality that made Reader so useful transferring over to make G+ work for us. While the Google Reader name may stay, none of the social functions that make Google Reader so great will survive its incorporation into G+, thereby destroying a thriving community of dedicated and loyal followers.

"It certainly does seem like Google is trying to jam its social network down our throats," Keith Wagstaff wrote on Time's Techland.

"The old sharing methods have been totally supplanted with Google+ tools, which, quality aside, are too different to satisfy the same needs," the Atlantic's Rebecca Rosen wrote.

"I understand that they're trying to to build up Google+," Aminatou Sow, a senior digital media manager at Home Front Communications, told Yahoo News. "But it is absolutely idiotic to have users toggle through two services to both read and share."

Jeanne Brooks, community manager with the Online News Association, explained her fury in a detailed email to Yahoo News:

I mostly used it for the community. It was the braintrust for a group of readers, writers, thinkers, technologists and activists. I had personalized feeds of information from lists of friends and trusted peers and was able to participate in private conversations with personal and extended contacts about a variety of topics on a platform that was secure. It was a go-to source for anything from when I was trying to wrap my head around a complex immigration issue to when I needed a quick lull in between meetings. I knew just the right people to go to, not just for their articles but for their quick thoughts and analysis on things.

Of course it was also my RSS reader but a reader is just a reader. It's the sharing component that makes it worthwhile. G+ is not the solution for that. The community function of it is not integrated in the reader, which means I have to go to another site to get my network's thoughts. Within the G+ platform, I have to click on a link in order to read it, creating a barrier to private comment and conversation.

I also don't view G+ as a safe community. By that I mean that it's alarming to be bombarded by the swaths of weird male spammer follows I get on a daily basis or the fact that I've noticed my settings reset a couple times now (with no notification!), allowing spammers to tag me in photos or videos that aren't me or to email directly to my inbox. It's too much work filtering out spammers to view G+ as a trusted platform I want to go to everyday.

Reader was a safe community. I had control over sharing. I wasn't being tagged in things by people I don't know. It didn't annoy me with notices in my Gmail screen (where I spend most of my day). I don't need that. I went to Reader when I wanted, read what I wanted in an organized fashion, and learned from the conversation and posts of the gfam. This is a community I will miss immensely.

The changes are also upsetting users in Iran, where social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are often banned--but Google Reader is not.

Still, it doesn't sound as though Google is too concerned about the backlash.

"We hope you'll like the new Reader (and Google+) as much as we do, but we understand that some of you may not," Green wrote. "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.

He added: "If you decide to stay, then please do send us your feedback on today's set of improvements. Google+ is still in its early days, after all, and we're constantly working on improvements. If, however, you decide that the product is no longer for you, then please do take advantage of Reader's subscription export feature."

Translation: If you don't want Google+, Google doesn't want you.

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