I’ve recently found Google Reader to be tediously slow. This is a major obstacle to its usability and take-up.
For example, I’m looking to move house and had the bright idea that I could take advantage of some forward-looking estate agents who issue RSS feeds of their searches. So far, so good – but when I subscribe to these feeds I can be waiting, quite literally, for minutes before Google finishes whatever it’s doing. This happens with any feed, not just property searches. And it happens pretty much when I click anything on Google Reader, whether it’s to manage my subscriptions, change a folder or unsubscribe.
I’ve been living with it for a while now, simply because I generally don’t need to change subscriptions very intensively and the Reader is fast enough at showing my existing feeds. But my partner’s reaction, while I was showing her how to subscribe to these property searches, is decidedly unenthusiastic. “It’s just too slow,” she says. “I wouldn’t use it.” And you know what? She’s right (for once). People need to be impressed by this stuff. If they’re not, they won’t use it.
So what is causing this slowness? Three things come to mind: the application that resides in my client; the number of subscriptions I have; and the server.
First, the application. My understanding is that Google Reader resides entirely in my client, so that points to something wrong with my machine. I admit it’s a bit long in the tooth compared to modern machines – Win2K, 750MB RAM, AMD XP2100+ CPU – but heck, I’ve used it to put together compositions of 30+ tracks in Cubase with no problem. Nothing – repeat, nothing – runs as remotely slowly as Google Reader.
Secondly, my subscriptions. I just clicked ‘Manage subscriptions’ so I’ll have to wait a minute or two now… OK, here we are, it says 248 subscriptions. This isn’t a vast amount, is it?
And what about the server end? I honestly don’t know enough about that to comment. My theory is that I am being polled for requests and that perhaps this causes slowness. If anyone else knows, please tell me.
I’ve looked at other aggregators – Bloglines, Newsgator – and there are comments to the same effect dotted around the web. So is this a problem with RSS and aggregators generally? If so then it must change. Not just because it will make my life more difficult as I try to enthuse people about this technology, but because, if it’s slow now with such a minority of people using it, imagine what it will be like if people like me are successful and persuade everyone else to use it?