Google, well known for leading the charge in Web-based technology innovation, has been lauded for making early version projects available to the masses through its self-proclaimed "technology playground", Google Labs, at labs.google.com. With the idea being that some of their favorite ideas "aren't quite ready for prime time", giving you the chance to "play with prototypes", these Lab projects incubate, sometimes for years, before being released on a wider scale.
I believe that in time Google Reader has been cooking, it has reached the point where it should leave the labs altogether. To not release Google Reader from the labs would only demonstrate to me and other users that Google doesn't take this product as seriously as other applications, and that they are less willing to support it and fix bugs rapidly - which would be assumed once the product went "Live".
Google Reader is, by unofficial statistics, among the fastest growing RSS feed readers out there, and is much beloved by some of the blogosphere's most vocal technology pundits, including Robert Scoble of PodTech. I made the switch from NewsGator's NetNewsWire to Google Reader late last year and haven't turned back, making Google Reader a must visit throughout the day, every day, as it dutifully collects all the latest posts and articles from my feed subscriptions, while dramatically reducing my need to visit Web sites directly.
In most companies, for a product to leave beta status and go to general availability (GA), it should have gone through significant quality assurance (QA) testing, and displayed consistent reliability and uptime without show-stopper bugs. Over the last four-plus months since its unveiling, Google Reader has been stable, and added new features on a regular basis, from sharing links via a customized links blog, to displaying individual trends on reading and sharing RSS feeds, all while keeping a simple GMail-like interface that Google has kept as a standard for its Web-based applications.
It is my expectation that Web-based applications, like search engines, and all Web pages, will retain the ability to be updated rapidly over time. Releasing Google Reader out of the Labs, while continuing to add features and fix any bugs that arise, makes sense. In its short time in the Labs, Google Reader has evolved to a must-use application, one I likely use more than the Google search engine itself. And that's saying something.
Google Reader: Official Blog
RSS a Demanding Mistress
RSS Eliminates Need for Frequently Repeated Searches