Feedburner bad for us?

Munir Umrani says: “I read the [Dave Winer] post twice and could not understand why Feedburner is trouble.”

The post he’s talking about? Dave Winer, who wrote “Why Feedburner is trouble.”

That caused a bunch of conversation over the weekend.

Ian Betteridge answers back “I could switch my feeds away from FeedBurner within a week.”

I disagree with Ian. If he switched his feeds from Feedburner that would break my news aggregator. I’d stop getting his feed and it wouldn’t be guaranteed that my aggregator would get his new feed. In fact, I’ll bet it’ll just stop getting Ian. Switching feed URLs at this point is audience suicide. If you don’t care about your audience you’ll do it.

UPDATE: Nick Bradbury, in my comments, says that you can move off of Feedburner feeds and most feed readers will respect that. (Read my comments on this thread for more).

But, what really is cooking here is that RSS has been moved to big companies to control. How so? Well, the RSS Advisory board, which includes members from Cisco, Yahoo, Netscape, FeedBurner (er, Google), Microsoft, and Bloglines and this new unofficial board +is+ changing the RSS spec all the time (they are now up to version 2.0.9. UPDATE: which only represents a couple of changes, according to comments left on this post). Dave Winer, who founded that spec says that’s in direct contradiction with the original charter of the RSS Advisory Board that he founded when he moved RSS from UserLand over to Harvard University.

So, the RSS spec already IS being changed. The big companies are in charge and we’ve gotta deal with any mess they get together and create for all of us.

I really don’t get why these big companies want to mess with the RSS 2.0 spec when the Atom spec, which is a formal standard, is out there. Why don’t they join the Atom committee and why do these big companies want to even have the appearance of messing with a spec that we all are happily using?

What is it with engineers and big companies that they always want to mess with RSS instead of getting together and coming up with a feed format with another name and do whatever they want with THAT? They tried to get the world to switch to Atom, failed, and now are coming back to mess with RSS. Again. Sigh.

If they did this to SMTP or HTTP or HTML wouldn’t the tech world be going nuts right now? Where’s the Web 2.0 version of the Web Standards Project?

100 thoughts on “Feedburner bad for us?

  1. So Robert, given the comment above from Rogers, will you be retracting the “changing the spec all the time” bit of your post? Because you know that the entire post is looking more than a little… erroneous? :)

  2. So Robert, given the comment above from Rogers, will you be retracting the “changing the spec all the time” bit of your post? Because you know that the entire post is looking more than a little… erroneous? :)

  3. I think Dave was warning about the dangers of monopoly in feed distribution. Place yourself in the spot FeedBurner is, multiply by aggressive nature of Google, then think about how Google could leverage FeedBurner to increase, redirect, or reduce traffic.

    Even a simple HTTP request handling priority or bandwidth allocation difference between blogs that use AdSense and those that don’t will have huge impact.

  4. I think Dave was warning about the dangers of monopoly in feed distribution. Place yourself in the spot FeedBurner is, multiply by aggressive nature of Google, then think about how Google could leverage FeedBurner to increase, redirect, or reduce traffic.

    Even a simple HTTP request handling priority or bandwidth allocation difference between blogs that use AdSense and those that don’t will have huge impact.

  5. “RSS has been moved to big companies to control.”

    Take a look at the voting history and participation of the Advisory Board sometime. Hardly corporate control. The two most active members are Rogers Cadenhead and Randy Charles Morin. Which Fortune 100 companies do they represent, exactly?

    Regardless, Dave shouldn’t have left the advisory board, nor should he have frozen an imperfect spec. When you abandon something that people need but has bugs, SOMEBODY is going to try to fix it.

  6. “RSS has been moved to big companies to control.”

    Take a look at the voting history and participation of the Advisory Board sometime. Hardly corporate control. The two most active members are Rogers Cadenhead and Randy Charles Morin. Which Fortune 100 companies do they represent, exactly?

    Regardless, Dave shouldn’t have left the advisory board, nor should he have frozen an imperfect spec. When you abandon something that people need but has bugs, SOMEBODY is going to try to fix it.

  7. Robert Scoble’s mistaken about the RSS Advisory Board “changing the RSS spec all the time.” Check the history:

    http://www.rssboard.org/rss-history

    The spec only has been changed twice since January 2005, and one of those revisions was just administrative stuff that had nothing to do with the format.

    The other revision — adding four words to one sentence to clarify namespace support in RSS 2.0 — is *exactly* the kind of stuff we did under Dave Winer’s chairmanship. The kind of stuff I was told we would do when he asked me to join in 2004.

    http://www.rssboard.org/news/171

    Anyone who is curious about what we’re doing should join us on the RSS-Public mailing list. It’s a lot less controversial than Scoble and Dave Winer are making it sound.

  8. Robert Scoble’s mistaken about the RSS Advisory Board “changing the RSS spec all the time.” Check the history:

    http://www.rssboard.org/rss-history

    The spec only has been changed twice since January 2005, and one of those revisions was just administrative stuff that had nothing to do with the format.

    The other revision — adding four words to one sentence to clarify namespace support in RSS 2.0 — is *exactly* the kind of stuff we did under Dave Winer’s chairmanship. The kind of stuff I was told we would do when he asked me to join in 2004.

    http://www.rssboard.org/news/171

    Anyone who is curious about what we’re doing should join us on the RSS-Public mailing list. It’s a lot less controversial than Scoble and Dave Winer are making it sound.

  9. Paul: Actually Pope’s do write new doctrine based on (and presumably inspired by) the bible which constitute new commandments to the church. The most notable example of this is Vatican II in which the Second Vatican Council created a bunch of edicts that other Catholics weren’t crazy about. You can read more here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_Vatican_Council#Scripture_and_divine_revelation

    Just recently (last week) the new Pope rescinded one of those new commandments by allowing the use of Pre-Vatican II Latin Mass. So it really does happen all the time that Pope’s change commandments to their parishioners.

    So actually, your example really made my point perfectly. :)

  10. Paul: Actually Pope’s do write new doctrine based on (and presumably inspired by) the bible which constitute new commandments to the church. The most notable example of this is Vatican II in which the Second Vatican Council created a bunch of edicts that other Catholics weren’t crazy about. You can read more here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_Vatican_Council#Scripture_and_divine_revelation

    Just recently (last week) the new Pope rescinded one of those new commandments by allowing the use of Pre-Vatican II Latin Mass. So it really does happen all the time that Pope’s change commandments to their parishioners.

    So actually, your example really made my point perfectly. :)

  11. It’s pretty trivial to serve your feeds through FeedBurner in a way that makes it possible to completely and seamlessly return them to your control if the need ever arises using MyBrand or a 302 redirect. I just detailed these methods in a quick post over on my blog. It’s a waste of time to sit around and be paranoid about things like this, especially when there’s an easy solution :).

  12. It’s pretty trivial to serve your feeds through FeedBurner in a way that makes it possible to completely and seamlessly return them to your control if the need ever arises using MyBrand or a 302 redirect. I just detailed these methods in a quick post over on my blog. It’s a waste of time to sit around and be paranoid about things like this, especially when there’s an easy solution :).

  13. Woohoo, blog pile-on! I’ll chime in on the “move your feeds off of Feedburner” issue. Danny is 100% right above; MyBrand is free and every Feedburner user should enable it.

    Feedburner’s MyBrand feature lets me make a CNAME on mattcutts.com, so the feeds are served by Feedburner, but the location is feeds.mydomain.com, not feeds.feedburner.com. If you ever dislike Feedburner, it goes down, or you want to leave, everything is under your control on your own domain name. And Danny’s guide (he put a link in his comment) is the best walkthrough I’ve seen on how to set up the feature. At WordCamp yesterday, I told everyone that they should use MyBrand.

    XML makes my eyes glaze over, so I’ll stay out of the
    discussion of how RSS might change someday.

  14. Woohoo, blog pile-on! I’ll chime in on the “move your feeds off of Feedburner” issue. Danny is 100% right above; MyBrand is free and every Feedburner user should enable it.

    Feedburner’s MyBrand feature lets me make a CNAME on mattcutts.com, so the feeds are served by Feedburner, but the location is feeds.mydomain.com, not feeds.feedburner.com. If you ever dislike Feedburner, it goes down, or you want to leave, everything is under your control on your own domain name. And Danny’s guide (he put a link in his comment) is the best walkthrough I’ve seen on how to set up the feature. At WordCamp yesterday, I told everyone that they should use MyBrand.

    XML makes my eyes glaze over, so I’ll stay out of the
    discussion of how RSS might change someday.

  15. Tom: the key point there is what “clarifying” means.

    I mean really, you don’t see each new pope writing a new chapter of the Bible, do you? That would just be rude. Sure, popes release a “clarification” every now and again in Latin, but it’s not gospel (to coin a phrase).

    Rogers Cadenshead is not called Rogers Godhead. Just saying, is all. ;)

  16. Tom: the key point there is what “clarifying” means.

    I mean really, you don’t see each new pope writing a new chapter of the Bible, do you? That would just be rude. Sure, popes release a “clarification” every now and again in Latin, but it’s not gospel (to coin a phrase).

    Rogers Cadenshead is not called Rogers Godhead. Just saying, is all. ;)

  17. colin, they do, and that is what mybrand is about. it has not been as widely used as it costed money before.

    as for the leave and get 301 for 30 days: I have made a transition with them for one blog feed and have to say that while the feedburner part was great, those pesky feedreaders did not do the job well. if it tells you 30 1 for 30 days, you really should believe it and adapt. hrmpf.

  18. colin, they do, and that is what mybrand is about. it has not been as widely used as it costed money before.

    as for the leave and get 301 for 30 days: I have made a transition with them for one blog feed and have to say that while the feedburner part was great, those pesky feedreaders did not do the job well. if it tells you 30 1 for 30 days, you really should believe it and adapt. hrmpf.

  19. The bottom line is that everyone needs their own domain.

    Your domain buys you freedom on the web. Keep everything on your domain, and you are in control of your destiny. Move at will, redirect at will, change at will.

    Just ask third-party services like Feedburner to start supporting domains and CNAME records (they may already, I don’t know). That would solve the problem quickly and easily.

  20. The bottom line is that everyone needs their own domain.

    Your domain buys you freedom on the web. Keep everything on your domain, and you are in control of your destiny. Move at will, redirect at will, change at will.

    Just ask third-party services like Feedburner to start supporting domains and CNAME records (they may already, I don’t know). That would solve the problem quickly and easily.

  21. Well, and I want to point out in advance that this comment makes the mistake of assuming “Scoble = Winer” which isn’t always the case (but which seems to be the case 99% of the time). That said, given this comment…

    “But, what really is cooking here is that RSS has been moved to big companies to control. How so? Well, the RSS Advisory board, which includes members from Cisco, Yahoo, Netscape, FeedBurner (er, Google), Microsoft, and Bloglines and this new unofficial board +is+ changing the RSS spec all the time (they are now up to version 2.0.9). Dave Winer, who founded that spec says that’s in direct contradiction with the original charter of the RSS Advisory Board that he founded when he moved RSS from UserLand over to Harvard University.”

    Now, to make sure I was right on this I went back and found the post from Roger Cadenhead’s blog which you can find here: http://www.cadenhead.org/workbench/news/3217/dave-winer-and-rss-advisory-board
    In it, it quotes Dave’s resignation from the board where he said…

    “After giving it much thought, I’ve decided to resign from the RSS Advisory Board, effective July 1. I feel that the process for clarifying the spec is now well-understood by the existing members, and we have started a positive working relationship with several leading aggregator developers. … I wish the continuing members of the board the very best, and of course I will continue to be a huge booster of RSS and syndication technology and I will offer my opinion, through this blog, naturally, as always.”

    A few points to make here the first of which being that the “leading aggregator developers” are Google, Yahoo, Microsoft et al. So Dave actually set out this path before leaving. Second he encouraged the board to keep working on the spec.

    Finally, I think someone has to make the point that the people pushing Atom ARE NOT the people trying to clarify RSS and, to the best of my knowledge, the people trying to clarify the RSS spec have never been active in the Atom community. I think it was very unfair of you (Scoble) to make that accusation.

    P.S. Ok one last point which is that Userland, a company, revised the spec time and time again in the early days and that always seemed to be ok. The idea that it was ok then but that the spec is sacrosanct now doesn’t really track either.

  22. Well, and I want to point out in advance that this comment makes the mistake of assuming “Scoble = Winer” which isn’t always the case (but which seems to be the case 99% of the time). That said, given this comment…

    “But, what really is cooking here is that RSS has been moved to big companies to control. How so? Well, the RSS Advisory board, which includes members from Cisco, Yahoo, Netscape, FeedBurner (er, Google), Microsoft, and Bloglines and this new unofficial board +is+ changing the RSS spec all the time (they are now up to version 2.0.9). Dave Winer, who founded that spec says that’s in direct contradiction with the original charter of the RSS Advisory Board that he founded when he moved RSS from UserLand over to Harvard University.”

    Now, to make sure I was right on this I went back and found the post from Roger Cadenhead’s blog which you can find here: http://www.cadenhead.org/workbench/news/3217/dave-winer-and-rss-advisory-board
    In it, it quotes Dave’s resignation from the board where he said…

    “After giving it much thought, I’ve decided to resign from the RSS Advisory Board, effective July 1. I feel that the process for clarifying the spec is now well-understood by the existing members, and we have started a positive working relationship with several leading aggregator developers. … I wish the continuing members of the board the very best, and of course I will continue to be a huge booster of RSS and syndication technology and I will offer my opinion, through this blog, naturally, as always.”

    A few points to make here the first of which being that the “leading aggregator developers” are Google, Yahoo, Microsoft et al. So Dave actually set out this path before leaving. Second he encouraged the board to keep working on the spec.

    Finally, I think someone has to make the point that the people pushing Atom ARE NOT the people trying to clarify RSS and, to the best of my knowledge, the people trying to clarify the RSS spec have never been active in the Atom community. I think it was very unfair of you (Scoble) to make that accusation.

    P.S. Ok one last point which is that Userland, a company, revised the spec time and time again in the early days and that always seemed to be ok. The idea that it was ok then but that the spec is sacrosanct now doesn’t really track either.

  23. Provider of feeds are much more protective of their reach than they care about which format they are using.

    If it is a useful enhancement, others will follow in storm – see the itunes / podcast elements. Yes, it says itunes, but nobody really cares, they care about the content. (I am not up to current specs, but i assume there is still no length element in RSS for an episode – and you can do beautiful things with this.)

    Or they will stop using it if, it is not useful.

  24. Provider of feeds are much more protective of their reach than they care about which format they are using.

    If it is a useful enhancement, others will follow in storm – see the itunes / podcast elements. Yes, it says itunes, but nobody really cares, they care about the content. (I am not up to current specs, but i assume there is still no length element in RSS for an episode – and you can do beautiful things with this.)

    Or they will stop using it if, it is not useful.

  25. Pingback: cruel to be kind
  26. The rest of your post is right. The big companies, including Google, are trying to take control of RSS, and it’s in contradiction to the roadmap, and just plain wrong. I’ve asked them to stop, and so far they’ve ignored the request. Thanks for raising the issue publicly.

  27. The rest of your post is right. The big companies, including Google, are trying to take control of RSS, and it’s in contradiction to the roadmap, and just plain wrong. I’ve asked them to stop, and so far they’ve ignored the request. Thanks for raising the issue publicly.

  28. And the ability to switch your feed off Feedburner has NOTHING to do with this issue. You’re mixing apples and oranges. Please everybody think just a little bit before flying away into neverland.

  29. And the ability to switch your feed off Feedburner has NOTHING to do with this issue. You’re mixing apples and oranges. Please everybody think just a little bit before flying away into neverland.

  30. Whoa, I got as far as “stolen” and stopped there. I never said that, and I don’t think it. That is so off the wall and inflamatory. Please correct the post.

  31. Whoa, I got as far as “stolen” and stopped there. I never said that, and I don’t think it. That is so off the wall and inflamatory. Please correct the post.

  32. Let’s see — Google buys FeedBurner, and then FeedBurner makes the MyBrand feature free for anyone to use. MyBrand is the feature that puts feeds under your own domain, which means if you want to buy into Dave’s paranoia, you can move off and take your readers with you.

    Yeah, pretty clever of Google. Let’s make it easier for them to leave by making a formerly paid product free.

    Look, anyone who started using something using someone else’s domain has themselves to blame, to begin with. But after Dave initially banged on FeedBurner those years ago, they quickly responded to make it so that you can move your feed even if you didn’t use MyBrand, through redirection. He never seems to credit them for this. In addition, they came out with MyBrand, which anyone who really cared could have used for I think over two years now, for a small fee. But as I said, it’s entirely free now.

    So paranoid? Go get MyBrand. Here’s my guide to it:
    http://searchengineland.com/070110-111256.php

    The only change is, you know, it doesn’t cost money anymore.

  33. Let’s see — Google buys FeedBurner, and then FeedBurner makes the MyBrand feature free for anyone to use. MyBrand is the feature that puts feeds under your own domain, which means if you want to buy into Dave’s paranoia, you can move off and take your readers with you.

    Yeah, pretty clever of Google. Let’s make it easier for them to leave by making a formerly paid product free.

    Look, anyone who started using something using someone else’s domain has themselves to blame, to begin with. But after Dave initially banged on FeedBurner those years ago, they quickly responded to make it so that you can move your feed even if you didn’t use MyBrand, through redirection. He never seems to credit them for this. In addition, they came out with MyBrand, which anyone who really cared could have used for I think over two years now, for a small fee. But as I said, it’s entirely free now.

    So paranoid? Go get MyBrand. Here’s my guide to it:
    http://searchengineland.com/070110-111256.php

    The only change is, you know, it doesn’t cost money anymore.

  34. Robert, if you leave FeedBurner, any request for your FeedBurner feed will result in an HTTP 301 (redirect) response. This tells the RSS reader that the feed’s location has changed, and every RSS reader I know of will honor that request by updating the stored location of the feed.

    In other words, you will NOT stop getting the feed.

  35. Robert, if you leave FeedBurner, any request for your FeedBurner feed will result in an HTTP 301 (redirect) response. This tells the RSS reader that the feed’s location has changed, and every RSS reader I know of will honor that request by updating the stored location of the feed.

    In other words, you will NOT stop getting the feed.

  36. Nope, it won’t be going through feedburner anymore. During the next 30 days FeedBurner will redirect the feed to any feed URL you’ve specified, thus allowing every aggregator to catch up.

    But I agree with you, Scoble (did I just write that?). You might loose the feed, because most webmasters don’t know how to setup the subscription link or how to configure the feedburner feed correctly.

    Thing is: never let them subscribe to feedburner directly. let them subscribe to your redirected feedurl. Also set in the feedburner options (optimize) the original feedurl to subscribe for. Works like a charm when properly configured. Is a nightmare for every stats h0 when not and the feed changes one day.

    I documented the whole thing at Performancing.

    Lets jsut say no one is wrong here. It can be done without losing subscribers, but in most cases damage is done without knowing and subscribers will be lost when changing the feed.

  37. Nope, it won’t be going through feedburner anymore. During the next 30 days FeedBurner will redirect the feed to any feed URL you’ve specified, thus allowing every aggregator to catch up.

    But I agree with you, Scoble (did I just write that?). You might loose the feed, because most webmasters don’t know how to setup the subscription link or how to configure the feedburner feed correctly.

    Thing is: never let them subscribe to feedburner directly. let them subscribe to your redirected feedurl. Also set in the feedburner options (optimize) the original feedurl to subscribe for. Works like a charm when properly configured. Is a nightmare for every stats h0 when not and the feed changes one day.

    I documented the whole thing at Performancing.

    Lets jsut say no one is wrong here. It can be done without losing subscribers, but in most cases damage is done without knowing and subscribers will be lost when changing the feed.

  38. I disagree with Ian. If he switched his feeds from Feedburner that would break my news aggregator.

    If you realy read his news you’ll know that he is dropping off “Feedburner”.

    To have 30 thousand feed subscribers makes you quite popular, but half of them don’t really reed you.

    Don’t bother about that half.

    As for Dave Winer, I think that he is very right.
    Who wants few companies to own the Internet.

    Bringing diluting issues serves only that few companies.

  39. I disagree with Ian. If he switched his feeds from Feedburner that would break my news aggregator.

    If you realy read his news you’ll know that he is dropping off “Feedburner”.

    To have 30 thousand feed subscribers makes you quite popular, but half of them don’t really reed you.

    Don’t bother about that half.

    As for Dave Winer, I think that he is very right.
    Who wants few companies to own the Internet.

    Bringing diluting issues serves only that few companies.

  40. “After 30 days, your feed is permanently removed and any requests will receive a “Feed Not Found” response.”

    Sigh. Is the linked post really that long? :)

  41. “After 30 days, your feed is permanently removed and any requests will receive a “Feed Not Found” response.”

    Sigh. Is the linked post really that long? :)

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