Google is maneuvering to make its Google Reader RSS tool more social by adding features that let users share specific content -- and add notes about why they are sharing it.
"As it turns out, there's all sorts of information 'out there' just waiting to be streamed, shared and otherwise consumed by you and your friends," noted Google's Jenna Bilotta. "Now you can finally show all of your Reader friends that awesome talking cat video you found, your favorite grilled trout recipe or reviews of the best brunch places in your neighborhood -- all without a subscription."
The updates provide users with "bookmarklets" to share content from Web pages from any site, even those that don't have a feed, Google said. Users can also select some text from the page before clicking on a bookmarklet to allow the selection to appear as the item's body.
The updated Google Reader also provides a place for users to add notes with comments about why they are sharing specific content. "If you are like me, you might want to share something in Reader, but think your friends might not 'get' why you are sharing it," Bilotta added. "Use the 'Share with note' button on the item toolbar to create a copy of that item with your own note attached to it. Now your friends won't have to wonder if the B-movie about an evil floor lamp you shared was intended to be funny, sarcastic, ironic or the real motivation behind your next movie night."
In addition, users can add a note to friends without attaching it to specific content. Adam Ostrow, a blogger at Mashable noted that the new Google Reader features make using the reader a lot more like saving something to social bookmarking site del.icio.us or submitting it to a social network like Digg.com.
"This isn't actually completely new -- I've previously described a third-party bookmarklet that does something similar. But now that it's being officially offered by Google Reader, adoption is going to surge," Ostrow added. "This bookmarklet is also a lot easier to use than the third-party app, which required some knowledge of Google Reader's interface."
In addition, because the bookmarklet allows users to add any Web page to the shared items list, not just those with an RSS feed, Google Reader users can share information from more than just news sites and blogs, thus making the act of sharing items even more similar to submitting an item to a social news site, he added.
"One other welcome change is that shared items now have a distinctive look inside Google Reader," Ostrow noted. "This alleviates at least some of the duplicate items problem, in that you can now see that an item isn't just showing up repeatedly, but rather, it's being shared by your friends."
But Ionut Alex Chitu, a blogger at Google Operating System, noted that although the new features are useful, Google Reader should also have found a way to integrate discussions into the annotating feature so users can reply to a comment.
Google Operating System is an independent blog that tracks Google's efforts to move the operating system online.
"Even if it's not a feed reader, FriendFeed is a better place for sharing Web pages and discussing them with the people you know or care about," Chitu said. FriendFeed is a service launched by former Googlers that allows users to share the new or other content they are interested in with their friends and family.