During I/O 2021, Google announced that Chrome for Android would be testing a built-in RSS reader. It’s considered an experiment that might not ever launch, but you can test the RSS-powered “Web Feed” in Chrome today.

Update 10/8: Google has decided to more widely test the RSS-backed “Web Feed.” Namely, it’s being tested in Chrome 94 (the current stable release) and later versions. As such, the feature can be enabled without switching to the beta app, while it’s already rolled out for an unspecified “% of people.”

Chrome engineering director Adrienne Porter Felt said an iOS version “is in progress,” while a desktop Web Feed is “planned but a bit further out.”

Original 6/17: The “Web Feed” — as it’s called — works on Chrome 92 (currently in the Beta channel) 94 and newer. Enter chrome://flags/#web-feed into the address bar and select “Enabled” from the dropdown menu. Relaunch the browser as instructed.

After enabling, visiting most sites will reveal a “Follow” button at the very bottom of the overflow menu. If a site doesn’t use RSS, Google will use its existing content index to keep you up-to-date. Tapping generates a snackbar that confirms the subscription with a “Go to feed” link.

On the New Tab Page, you get a new “Following” feed that joins the existing Discover-driven “For you.” They are visually very similar, but the new one makes use of full-width cards that feature large cover images followed by the headline, site name, publish time, share, and overflow.

The latter menu lets you open in a new or Incognito tab, download link, hide this story — useful for hiding things you’ve already read elsewhere, report content, or send feedback. The main settings gear icon opens a Manage page with a new “Following” item to quickly unfollow sites you’ve added.

The Chrome for Android Web Feed makes for a very basic RSS reader and you can very easily find more full-featured ones, but this will do for casual users. Google will evaluate publisher and end user feedback in deciding whether to launch this experiment.

It’s a vast departure from Discover’s algorithmic approach of serving up content that users might be interested in. The extent of customization there is defining what broad topics interest you. Instead, Google imagines this new offering as providing “deeper” and intentional — like a social media follow — connections between publishers and readers.

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Abner Li

Editor-in-chief. Interested in the minutiae of Google and Alphabet. Tips/talk: abner@9to5g.com