Google’s RSS Chrome extension returns to Chrome Web Store but Reader-less

Google may have upset a small, yet vocal minority, over the impending closure of Google Reader on July 1, but the company hasn’t given up entirely on RSS.

The search giant’s RSS Subscription Extension has reappeared on the Chrome Web Store after it disappeared a few days after the Google Reader shutdown announcement. It turns out that the RSS extension removal was not intentional, according to the author of the Chrome add-on.

“My RSS extension was removed by mistake, but it is now up again on the webstore,” Google software engineer Finnur Thorarinsson said Tuesday on a Google Code forum thread. A Google spokesperson was unavailable as of this writing to comment on the return of its Chrome RSS extension.

Google’s Chrome RSS Subscription Extension

is a convenient way to add an RSS feed to an online feed reader in just a few clicks. The new version of Google’s RSS extension removes the options to add feeds to Google Reader and iGoogle, the search giant’s personalized home page service that will shut down on November 1.

By default, the new RSS Chrome extension allows you to add feeds to Bloglines or My Yahoo; other online RSS alternatives such as The Old Reader must be added manually.

Why the fuss over RSS?

If you’re not familiar with RSS or why so many people are decrying the demise of Google Reader, think of RSS, and its close cousin Atom, as the Web’s take on print subscriptions.

RSS allows you to receive updates whenever a website or web page, with RSS enabled, changes. This lets you see new blog posts, breaking news stories, and other content from Web sites inside a single feed reader application such as Google Reader or a desktop app like FeedReader. Google Reader, soon after it was introduced in 2005, became the most popular feed reader for managing and reading RSS subscriptions.

Google Reader was widely used by many journalists, individual bloggers, and other technically literate users. It was also a popular tool for people in authoritarian countries such as Iran and China to access government-censored content, the online petition platform Change.org says.

“People living under repressive regimes use the service [Reader] to access information untouched by government censors,” said Change.org spokesperson Charlotte Hill recently in a statement via email. “If Google Reader goes, they say, so will uncensored news and views from around the world.” Change.org currently has a petition with more than 130,000 signatories asking Google to keep Reader going.

Although implemented widely across the Web, RSS never gained mainstream acceptance as a way to keep tabs on news and other updates from around the Web. Nevertheless, an RSS subscription button was a standard feature in the navigation bar of most browsers until relatively recently.

No RSS button on Chrome browser

However, Chrome was an exception to that. Google’s browser never offered an RSS button, leading Chrome users to post a feature request in Google’s code forums. The feature request asked Google to fold the RSS browser extension into Chromium—the Google-led open source browser Chrome is based on.

The feature request remained open for three years until a Chrome engineer closed the request on March 16. “There have never been any plans to implement this [one-click RSS subscriptions] natively in Chrome,” Google’s Peter Kasting said last Saturday. “ I don't know why this bug has been left open for years, making it look as if we're considering this, when we're not…I'm sorry to all of you who starred this [feature request thread], I know that this was something a lot of you really wanted.”

In their respective forum postings, both Kasting and Thorarinsson said they were also “pretty unhappy” to see Google Reader disappearing. Google, however, shows no signs of reversing its decision to shut down its Web-based feed reading application this summer.

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