Web browsers used to feature feed aggregators, but those built-in capabilities have since been phased out. Google is now looking to reverse the trend with Chrome trialing a “Follow” feature that more or less brings an RSS reader to the New Tab page.
As you browse websites, Chrome will show a “Follow” button when you open the overflow menu (from the top-right corner). It appears at the very bottom and includes the site’s favicon and name. Once subscribed, new content from those publishers will appear in the New Tab page as part of a “Following” tab that makes use of cards with cover images, headlines, and shows when something was published.
Compared to Discover (which is still available in Chrome as “For you”) and its topic-based approach, users are actively choosing what sites they want to see. That said, the algorithmic feed will use your follows to surface content.
The Chrome team wants to create “deeper connections” between publishers and readers, while making it easier to “keep up with [your] favorite websites.” Google’s Follow solution leverages the browser many people have installed, as well as the existing open RSS web standard. That said, if a site doesn’t use RSS, Google will fall back to its existing content index to keep users updated.
Google today considers Follow an experiment, and will evaluate publisher and end user feedback in deciding whether to graduate/widely launch it. The company will provide more information to websites if that’s the case, but the only publisher guidance today is making sure a site’s RSS is up-to-date. Similarly, Google would not yet comment on whether it will come to iOS or desktop browsers.
We welcome feedback from publishers, bloggers, creators, and citizens of the open web (like you!) on this experiment as we aim to build deeper engagement between users and web publishers in Chrome. You can also stay up-to-date and ask us questions via @WebCreators on Twitter or via email to email@example.com.
Google is also hosting a Following on the Open Web I/O 2021 session at 11 a.m. PT today.
This feature will appear over the “coming weeks” for Chrome Canary users in the US on Android. That version of the browser (Canary > Dev > Beta > Stable) is three levels from the release that the vast majority of people use.
More about Google Chrome:
- Chrome New Tab page will show shopping carts you’ve left behind
- Assistant and Duplex can now help you change stolen passwords in Chrome
- Google Chrome adds speedy ‘back-forward cache’ on desktop with instant page loading
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