As the old saying goes, “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” and Google’s latest Chrome experiment takes a page directly from that playbook. Ever since Edge browser moved to the Chromium platform, both Google and Microsoft have benefited from working together on the same Chromium code base that powers both Edge and Google’s Chrome browser. Whether it be new features, performance enhancements or security patches, a rising tide raises all ships and the two tech giants working together creates a beneficial product for their respective user bases. Win, win.
Last week, Microsoft announced the release of the Developer version of the Edge browser for Linux and we found that it installs and runs quite well on a Chromebook thanks to the Linux container found on most newer Chrome OS devices. One particular nugget that immediately grabbed my attention when browsing with Edge was the “Collections” feature that is very similar to the “Read Later” feature that Google has been working on for Chrome. The concept is simple. Instead of bookmarking an article, you simply add it to your Collections for consumption at a later time. When you’re ready to give it a read, you click the Collections icon at the top-right of Edge and a panel open on the right side of the browser with your various collections and the articles that you have saved. Now, instead of creating a ton of bookmarks and then having to clean them all up, you simply delete the article from the collection when you’re finished with it.
Google’s rendition of this feature is still in development and is currently called “Reading List.” (Formerly Read Later) The Reading List performs very much in the same way as Edge’s Collections. When you have a website open, you can right-click the Chrome tab and select “Read tab later.” It will close the tab and add it to your Reading List where you can open it later, mark it as read or delete it. In its current state, the Reading List is completely unstyled and little more than a folder on the bookmarks bar that drops down to reveal your saved pages. It is clear that there is a lot of polishing left to be done on the Reading List but now it appears that Google may be taking cues from Microsoft and adding a side panel for the feature. Here’s the commit I discovered yesterday after seeing the “side panel” flag in the latest build of Chrome OS Canary.
Add side-panel prototype using read later
Experiment with hosting some content in a side panel.
When I first discovered the flag, I wasn’t sure exactly what Google was working on. At one point in time, small popup windows like free-floating chats and other web-based content used a feature referred to as “panels” and I thought this could be a reference to a similar feature. It wasn’t until I discovered the above commit and attached feature request that it became clear that Chrome could soon use the same vertical panel for its reading list that Edge does for its Collections feature. The Reading List feature in Chrome is still a work in progress but it is functional in the Canary channel. Unfortunately, enabling the “side panel” flag breaks the reading list feature and clicking the icon results in the Chrome browser crashing. This isn’t unusual for a new feature as the moving parts required to make it work are still being put into their proper places.
Any way you slice it, the side panel feature could be a very cool addition to the Chrome landscape and it shows the great benefits of open source and cross platform development. Ironically, Google already has a “Collections” platform that offers a similar functionality by letting you add web pages to your person “collections” web site that you can find at google.com/collections. It is unclear whether or not Chrome’s Reading List and Google Collections will eventually merge into one being but I suspect that Google will steer clear of using the “Collections” nomenclature for the Chrome feature as Microsoft already laid claim to it. We shall see. Either way, I like the idea of a quick-look option for saved articles that doesn’t require me to create bookmarks. My only wish is that Google will eventually make a way for users to collaborate inside the Reading List and their Collections in the same way you can with Google Keep and other Google products.
Source: Chromium Repository