Google is Embracing RSS. Again.

Posted on May 19, 2021 by Paul Thurrott in Google Chrome with 28 Comments

It’s the technology that just won’t die, and for good reason: It works. So now Chrome is going to surface RSS feeds on websites to make it easier to follow them.

“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,” the Chromium Blog revealed today. “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.”

This is a great idea. For some reason, many websites, including, cough, many of Microsoft’s websites, support RSS, but they don’t provide any visible UI to help users get to the underlying feed. With this new Follow feature, Chrome will provide a visual button when there’s an RSS feed available, whether it’s visible to users or not.

Ironically, Google probably helped contribute to this problem when it killed Google Reader for reasons that still make zero sense to me. But now they have a “vision” to “help people build a direct connection with their favorite publishers and creators on the web.” Great idea. It was a great idea ten years ago, too.

Maybe Microsoft Edge will get this feature too, since it’s built on Chromium. Let’s cross our fingers.

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Comments (28)

28 responses to “Google is Embracing RSS. Again.”

  1. Daninbusiness

    I agree so much with your post here. But bringing up Google Reader makes me a little sad (still!!!).

    • amosclan

      Same here. I was so mad after they killed it that I moved my custom domain's email hosting from Google to Outlook. Now I use Feedly and the fantastic Feedlab store app.

  2. yaddamaster

    Love this. I use Feedly every day.


    Now what we need are microblogging sites that are easy for end users to setup and use and oAuth based RSS.


    Imagine being able to use RSS to track the people you care about instead of using social media and what FB thinks you should see. But not having it open to the world - only those people you want to actually share your posts with.


    Maybe something like that already exists. Dunno

  3. brothernod

    Is RSS bad for websites that live on ad revenue?

  4. ibarskiy

    The reason it doesn’t work well seems to be that it doesn’t work for the content providers. They get monetized through adds, that you can only see on the actual page so at best they provide a short snipped and make you visit anyway - so then the reader becomes just another extra step and you don’t use it. Until they solve this problem, it won’t work

  5. spacein_vader

    This is Google, so I'm assuming they've found a way to inject ads, tracking or both into RSS feeds. No thanks.

  6. mikegalos

    Great. The only reason I keep an unsupported copy of Internet Explorer around is for it's very good RSS Reader functionality. It's kind of pathetic from a privacy point of view that so many people have switched to having their RSS feeds stored on Google servers.


  7. jim_vernon

    I've been using an open source project called Tiny Tiny RSS for a few months now. Installs as a Docker container, has a nice web ui, and also has an Android app. I'm using a Google Reader theme with it and it's great.

  8. echo64

    Nope. I'm still upset years later that Google killed off Reader, I've moved over to Feedly and I'm not going back.

    • scottcc

      I used iGoogle for ages and then they closed it in 2009 or 20120 I believe. I then went to my.msn.com...and Microsoft killed that. I lastly went to my.yahoo.com and barely use it now, because adding new/updating existing feeds is broken, and half of the old feeds don't even work. What a waste.

  9. curtisspendlove

    Already moved to Feedly the first time they killed reader. I fully expect them to obliterate this code in a year or two and rip it out of upstream.

  10. robincapper

    Meh, Feedly have me and my feeds, many which have been around decades. Not going to bother with Google's whims

  11. codymesh

    sometimes technology feels like things just going around in circles

  12. north of 49th

    I use RSS feeds daily to keep up with the sites I want to keep up with (I use Feedly). Sometimes it's hard to find the RSS credentials for a site and if that is what Chrome is doing - fine.

    Do I want Google tracking the sites I get feeds from and building a profile of me to serve me ads? - No.

    • lvthunder

      If Google tracking is what bothers you why are you using Chrome to being with?

    • ommoran

      +1 for Feedly (from a fellow Canuck). It's imperfect - I would love an RSS aggregator that, when you went to read an article, either automatically used a browser's "reader" mode, or pulled the article into a reader-mode like container. Feedly does this on my iPad, but only with Safari's reader mode, which is sub-optimal for me.


      Still, it's a great program.

  13. crunchyfrog

    Ah, what's old is new again.

  14. kb9gxk

    For those using other Chromium browsers like Edge, check out https://podstation.github.io/. It's a Chrome extension that you can set up for RSS links.

  15. glenn8878

    I don't mind if they keep standards, but it seems they eliminated RSS for their own technologies and ads.

  16. Chris_Kez

    Seems like a good way to get more ads in front of more eyes.

    • Jeremy Turnley

      You get far fewer ads via an RSS aggregator than you do going to the sites themselves (usually one ad per post max with no means to insert pop-ups or autoplay media), which is probably why Google killed Reader to begin with. It's about as clean a browsing experience as you can get nowadays short of running a blocker (which also still works in RSS if you want).

      • Chris_Kez

        Right. I’m assuming Google will insert ads into this Following feed. Maybe they won’t, though, and they’ll be satisfied just tracking your reading preferences so they can improve their targeting wherever they do serve you ads.

    • j5

      I prefer RSS in keeping up with sites that I like. To me it’s all about balance and awareness. If you go to far off to either side then you’re in the gutters, somewhere in the middle is best.

  17. j5

    Crossing fingers it comes to Edge!

  18. SYNERDATA

    I use the Newsflow app to populate my Start Menu with a live tile for every RSS feed I follow so that I can just press the Windows key and see all my feeds at once. RSS is great.

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