ChromeOS 106 gets a Follow Site option for desktop RSS (Updated)

Earlier this week I asked the question “Is Google Reader coming back?” This was based on a new “Feed” option in the ChromeOS side panel. I wasn’t sure if this upcoming feature was based on RSS or some interpretation from Google. Now I pretty one certainly the side panel of Chrome and ChromeOS will use RSS (see update after post). The latest ChromeOS 106 Dev Channel release adds a “Follow Site” menu option.

I discovered the new “Follow Site” choice after updating my Chromebook’s software earlier today. And I’ve tracked a few sites using it. Unfortunately, the Stream view in the ChromeOS side panel is still not functional.

So why do I think that somehow Google Reader is making a comeback, but only in the Chrome browser and on ChromeOS?

Go back to October with me for a sec.

That’s when Google added a “Follow” option. to Chrome for Android. It’s the same functionality: by clicking on Follow, you subscribe to a site’s RSS feed. Here is the confirmation of that, along with the big hint that the feature would be coming to Chrome for iOS and desktop, ie; the Chrome browser and ChromeOS.

It is already enabled for a certain % of people, or you can enable it in chrome://flags under “web feed” (Chrome 94+ for Android). To follow, click on the three-dot menu and use the Follow button at the bottom. iOS version coming soon.

I’m going to go a little further here though. See how Adriana, Google’s Director of Engineering for Chrome, specifically mentions this feature to track a “web feed”?

The code I combed through earlier this week uses the same terminology:

RSS web feeds in ChromeOS

I don’t think it’s a coincidence at all. The code may say “web feeds”, but it’s now safe to assume it means RSS. (Update: Confirmed at the bottom of the post that it is indeed RSS)

I know these web feeds appear on Android’s new tab page, but I don’t think that’s what Google envisions for the desktop. This would clutter the new tab page way too much. It makes more sense to use the space of a resizable side panel to display RSS feeds on a Chromebook, Mac, or PC.

ChromeOS side panel resizing

By the way, I followed a few sites during my tests because I wanted to check a related hunch.

I know that Google News has a “Followings” section. I use it enough to view news outside of my traditional RSS feed reader. Specifically when browsing Google News. I wanted to see if my newly followed sites appeared there. They don’t.

This does not mean that they will not be available in the future. But it strongly suggests that Chrome and ChromeOS are getting a “Follow Site” feature tied to the new Feed option on the side panel. Google Reader revives?

Updated 8/17 at 3 p.m. ET: I reached out to Adriana on Twitter, asking her if this feature would use RSS. The answer is yes for sites that offer an RSS feed; Google will also push content to the feed side panel for those who don’t use RSS.

@KevinCTofel you can play with it right now on chrome android, it’s rss plus additional corpus content fetched from sites without rss

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