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Google scraps Chrome's RSS extension along with Reader

Chrome's best option for handling feeds already has met the same fate that that's coming soon to Google Reader. There are replacements, though.

Stephen Shankland principal writer
Stephen Shankland has been a reporter at CNET since 1998 and writes about processors, digital photography, AI, quantum computing, computer science, materials science, supercomputers, drones, browsers, 3D printing, USB, and new computing technology in general. He has a soft spot in his heart for standards groups and I/O interfaces. His first big scoop was about radioactive cat poop.
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Stephen Shankland
2 min read
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Google's decision to kill its Google Reader service has caused some collateral damage: the end of a related Chrome extension that let the browser handle RSS feeds.

RSS and the similar Atom technology make it easier for people to subscribe to regular updates published on Web sites, and Google Reader was a popular way for people to read that content. Google announced that it's scrapping Google Reader on July 1, but it's already gone ahead and withdrawn the feed-finding Chrome extension.

The extension would detect Web sites' feeds then let people use a variety of RSS reader services to subscribe to those feeds.

For those who want to replace Chrome's reader extension, one option that seems to be actively maintained is the RSS Subscription Extension. According to the unofficial Google Operating System blog, it's based on Google's own RSS extension for Chrome, and based on my tests works identically so far.

I'm one of the people who bemoans the loss of Google Reader, since I use it daily to scan countless news sites and blogs for the latest updates and think it reduces the friction of information flow around the world.

But I'm not surprised that Google is scrapping it. RSS never drew much in the way of mainstream usage, and while some place the blame for that irrelevance at Google's feet for all but ceasing Google Reader development, I'm not convinced RSS was really ever a great tool for ordinary folks. With each passing year, Google becomes more of a consumer products and services organization, aiming for the mainstream and not the nerdy technophiles it likes to hire. Those of you who want regular-expression handling in Google Docs: forget it.

The writing has been on the wall for Google Reader for a long time. The RSS reader extension was one illustration. A top-interest browser issue for Google was a feature request to add RSS support to Chrome. But the company chose instead to just leave RSS support as an optional extension rather than build it directly into Chrome, telegraphing clearly that feed-reading didn't make the cut.

Just because something isn't mainstream doesn't mean there's no interest, of course. RSS readers are experiencing a new burst of activity left by Google's abandonment of the market. Feedly says it got 500,000 new users, and the Old Reader got 100,000 new users.

For some other ideas about filling that RSS void in your life, check CNET's list of five Reader replacements and eight reader software options, or check the Replace Reader site that tracks people's tweeted votes.