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Google Reader, the RSS feed-reading service Google has long since benignly abandoned, has gone completely mad, and Google has yet to acknowledge the problem even as it heads into its second day of unusability. Users are reporting inaccurate read and unread counts, the reappearance of thousands of old, unread items as new, and, in some cases, the return of feeds users had previously unsubscribed to.
According to mentions on Twitter, the problem started at some point yesterday, but many users are just now noticing it this morning, as they return to work and their usual Monday morning routines. The issues, documented to some extent here, effectively make it impossible to use Google Reader, as you can no longer tell which items are new and which are old. Even timestamps seem to be affected. This is unfortunate because Google Reader remains one of the best pure, feed-reading services on the market, and it also powers the backend of many other news-reading apps, such as Reeder or Feedly, for instance, as well as others like Flipboard, which allows for more casual ways of reading RSS feeds.
It’s fair to say that Google Reader is no longer a priority at Google, given the company’s focus on developing Google+ in the midst of an overall shift to consuming news via social feeds, not the “geekier” RSS technology. RSS, as a consumer-facing tool on the front end never caught on with mainstream users. Most still have no idea what RSS means, or why there are little orange “feed” icons on their favorite websites.
That being said, Google Reader continues to have a core, highly engaged audience of more tech-savvy folks. These people, self included, may be holdouts from a previous era of the web – a time when there weren’t Twitters and Flipboards and Google+’s, even, for social news reading and sharing.
Yet while these users are members of a small community (and dwindling), they tend to be active users and influencers. According to some of our previous posts on Google Reader, there are at least a few hundred of these people left who cared enough to comment about Google Reader’s changes – that is, its forced transition to a part of the Google+ infrastructure back in fall 2011.
The beloved network, eventually steamrolled by Google+, was also the focus of a BuzzFeed profile on “Google’s Lost Social Network” just a couple of months ago, demonstrating that there continues to be an ongoing interest in the service, even if Google no longer cares much about its existence…or apparently, its continuing functionality.
We’ve reached out to Google for comment earlier this morning, and are awaiting a response. A message from on the Google Reader forum states: “The Google Reader team has been notified and someone will be looking into this.” Originally we said that message was from a Googler; that is not the case.