Google has long had a great product in its RSS feed reader, Google Reader. Up until now however, it hasn’t been able to fully realize some of its potential. It is finally starting to.

Using a new bookmarklet, you can now share any page on the web — not just items from feeds you subscribe to. More importantly, you can leave notes on any of these items you share. This means that others can now see the items you share and realize why you shared them. This is exactly how Google Reader’s “Shared Items” should have worked all along.

Google has had the Shared items area on Google Reader since its inception. It was a nice feature, but it was also frustrating in how small its scope was. Google had all of this great, public data at its disposal, so why wasn’t it utilizing it? It could have easily created a “Most shared” page, to highlight the most popular shared items across the network. Other services stepped in to do this since Google wasn’t, notably Feedheads on Facebook, RSSmeme and Readburner (which recently relaunched).

Back in September of last year, Google rolled out a service called Shared Stuff. It was a browser bookmarklet which, as you might imagine, placed items on a public page for things you shared. It was a good idea, it looked like Google was going to directly challenge services such as Yahoo’s Del.icio.us for bookmarking on the web. It even had a page that showcased the items most shared across the service. Many people have long thought Google could potentially even take on the social news voting site Digg if such functionality was simply added to Google Reader.

It appeared that Google was finally taking a step in the right direction. Then it basically never mentioned Shared Stuff again. This insured no one would use it. It feel into obscurity.

A few months later, Google decided to roll out a “Friends shared items” feature for Google Reader. Once again, this was a step in the right direction. However, aside from Google bungling its launch by not properly explaining to users how the sharing would work, Google also didn’t take this feature far enough. I could see what my friends were sharing, but I couldn’t see why — and I still had to hope they were using Google Reader regularly to share stuff.

As I wrote on my personal blog, ParisLemon, on January 1st:

So why no love from Google for ‘Shared Stuff’? Well it could very well be that they are planning to eventually integrate it with Google Reader whether that be in Google Reader itself or on something like a Google Profile page under a ‘shared’ tab. Imagine a Google ‘Sharing’ service where you could easily share both RSS feed items and webpages alike depending on if you happened to be browsing the web or reading your feeds. This could be the ultimate sharing/tagging/bookmarking service – a true Del.icio.us killer.

Today we’re getting exactly that. Now, how long until we see a “Most shared” page for Google Reader?

(Oh yeah, and Google spruced up the Shared Items stand-alone pages with themes such as ninjas and sea creatures.)