Google Reader Play is an experimental new way to browse interesting stuff on the web. Brought to you by the Google Reader team, it is supposed to make the best features in Reader more accessible to everyone. It’s not a new application or feed reader, but an interface that runs on top of Google Reader. Your interactions with items in Google Reader Play correspond to the same actions you might take in Google Reader.
In Google Reader Play, each item is brought to you one at a time and in full screen. Videos and images from the item are extracted and placed front and center. A post containing multiple images will have a small gallery so that you can switch between them. A snippet of the post is displayed below this, along with a link to the source. Arrows on the left and right allow you to move forward/backward between items and a thumbnail strip along the bottom lets you jump between items.
This isn’t just a pretty new interface, though. You can Star, Like, and Comment on any item you happen to be viewing. Taking these actions teaches Google Reader Play what you like. As it adapts to your tastes and preferences, it brings you more of what you’re into and less of the other stuff. You can even use Play without signing in, but then you don’t get the personalized content. The content comes from the feeds you’ve subscribed to as well as your Recommended Items (which you probably never check in the standard interface). You’ll also see items that your Google Reader friends have shared.
To be clear, Reader Play isn’t intended to replace Google Reader: both Google Reader and Reader Play are about finding and reading interesting stuff online. In essence, Reader Play is a different view of Reader. It’s designed to be a fun and easy way to browse interesting items, while Reader is a highly customizable way to organize your feeds, keep track of what you’ve read, and much more.
Depending on your workflow, having all your feeds jumbled together and displayed to you one item at a time might seem utterly ridiculous, but it’s actually pretty useful. You can quickly scan through your feeds, your shortcut keys still work for navigation and sharing/starring items. If you want to read an entire article, click the “eye” icon to switch to a standard view of the item with a scrollbar. The icon to the right of the eye opens your stream settings, where you can choose what types of items you want to see: New Items, All Items, Starred Items, Liked Items, Shared Items, and Categories (in case you’re trying to get focused). The TV icon will play your feeds as a slideshow.
Google Reader Play will probably be something I end up using when I get bored with standard feed reading. What do you think?