Chrome Canary, the browser’s nightly build for developers, has been testing a new Follow button, as spotted on Android by the publishers of Chrome Story. The button appears on the homepage of a site, as well as in the browser menu:
Chrome Story speculates that it may be integrated with Google’s Discover feature, allowing sites to be easily added to that feed. Others speculated more broadly that Google may be building a replacement for Google Reader.
Any whisper of Google Reader being resurrected always causes a bit of a stir, as many loyal users are still in mourning for the beloved RSS reader, which was discontinued in 2013. Linking this new Follow feature with Discover may be the closest Google gets to bringing it back. A full-featured RSS reader will likely still be a better option to have full control of your feeds and how they display. However, it may be possible for developers to build tools that fetch and aggregate feeds captured by the Follow button.
Before the explosion of social media sites, RSS buttons were prominently featured on WordPress blogs. Having the ability to follow a site for new updates, without having to check back manually, was an important feature if you wanted to be found in the nascent blogosphere. RSS is still alive and well, even if following a curated list of sites isn’t the primary way people get their news today. Many internet users don’t know the first thing about subscribing to feeds but Google’s new Follow feature might make the idea more approachable.
Canary is unstable, but if want to check out features on the bleeding edge of Chrome development, you can install Canary for Android alongside your regular browser and choose when you launch it. At the time of publishing, the Follow button was not in the latest build but Google sometimes puts features in and pulls them out while they are in development. We will be following to see how this takes shape.