Feedburner, Reader and Google's Priorities

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Allow me some drama and tin-foil hat speculation. Over the weekend, Feedburner started it’s death spiral. Actually, I began to notice problems with Feedburner stats last year. Gross fluctuations that seemed impossible or at best specious. But this weekend many feeds went silent.

Back when I dumped Google I committed to dumping everything “Google” and that included Feedburner1. I accepted that I would not have accurate feed stats, but my rationalization was that I didn’t trust Feedburner stats anyway. Today, I have virtually no feed stats other than hits on my feed, which is completely inaccurate. If I was trying to make a living off of stats I would have stuck with Feedburner and the bogus yet profitable numbers. Luckily, my one advertiser prefers quality niche sites with committed readers. I provided some basic stats and some legacy HaveaMint stats for my feeds.2


Just as Feedburner was the flagship feed stats clearing house, Google Reader is the dominant feed aggregator on the web. Millions of people spend large amounts of time in Google Reader, yet the app has only received visual downgrades over the past two years. Google Reader is feeling its age in a time when iOS feed readers are pushing the limits every day. Yet, there is still no real competitor. If you run your own server, you can use Feed A Fever (Review) but that’s really for geeks. My expectation is that Reader is not far behind Feedburner circling the bowl.

I don’t think this was Google’s master plan. I think they stumbled into being the web’s killing jar. It just happens to benefit them now to end RSS feed aggregation.

In Service of Google

Feeds and feed readers are outside of Google’s advertising space. I see no ads from Google when my various feed readers show me my Google feed sources3. Google gains statistics but since I don’t use their other services I do not see ads. Feeds are not Google revenue sources. As a company that pays salaries and bills, feeds are counter to their business goals. They are not a charity. They want people to use the web and click their ads.

It is my sincere hope that capitalism does actually work on the web. I hope that a company rises out of the Feedburner and Reader ashes to provide a for-pay service that addresses a real need. I hope that company is not acquired by Google.

  1. Thanks Merlin. Your comments about people bemoaning Google but using Feedburner, motivated me to dump it. ↩︎

  2. I have also given up on Haveamint. It requires a SQL back-end I don’t want or need. I also had never-ending problems with configuring the service to get accurate stats. Some aspect of the service was constantly broken and the service is only supported by one, very busy, guy. ↩︎

  3. See this post before commenting about the dichotomy of dropping Google but keeping their feed aggregation service. ↩︎