4 min read

Google's FeedBurner - Hanging Tough, Lazy Bloggers, or No Legitimate Alternatives?

Aside from the fact that many bloggers felt abandoned by the “FeedBurner love” since it was purchased by Google, FeedBurner was placed in the bull’s-eye of bloggers at the start of 2009 for two main reasons — feeds not updating quickly enough and changing their ping address without notifying anyone. During the migration from FeedBurner to Google, around the same time, people were also annoyed at stats not staying consistent with the switch. For the updating of feeds issue, the problem should now be resolved with PubSubHubbub. Good for them.

My instinct was that FeedBurner was going to face an impending exodus. Fast forward to just past the midway point of 2009 — now. I’ve surveyed the top tech blogs to see who has stuck with FeedBurner. Using them as a barometer, many are still snuggled up with FeedBurner. During my analysis, only one had switched to a self-hosted feed but has since switched back to FeedBurner before I clicked publish. Go figure.

Indeed, while I was going to experiment with self-hosting my feed, I too have just never gotten around to it. Is it because I’m thrilled with every aspect of FeedBurner? Negative. In fact, there is one issue related to the migration from FeedBurner to Google services that continues to irk me — multiple feed addresses. Let’s take a closer look.

During the migration from FeedBurner to Google, we got this notice after the migration (my emphasis) —

You will no longer be able to sign in to feedburner.com, but that’s okay: from now on, there is no reason to do so. Also, your old FeedBurner feeds, found at feeds.feedburner.com, will automatically redirect traffic to their new addresses on the feeds2.feedburner.com domain. You may still want to update any links or buttons on your website to use the new feeds2.feedburner.com address.

Many made that switch and Google showed the “feeds2″ address as the address listed in the FeedBurner service. I’ve noticed recently, however, that it’s back to “feeds” (with no indication “why” from what I’ve seen) —

Now, Google is pretty smart, so I’m sure that regardless of the feed address someone is subscribed to, it is likely getting logged as a subscriber. But let’s consider the confusion someone might see in an RSS reader —

There’s also a valid feed address that starts with “feedproxy” (http://feedproxy.google.com/name). So, there can be three different addresses for a single feed. I’m sure this makes life difficult for Google engineers but it also can create confusion for the end-user.

Making the Switch?
To be fair, Google is doing more with FeedBurner. While not a FeedBurner-specific feature, PubSubHubbub is now available on all FeedBurner feeds with PingShot enabled. They’ve also added a Map Overlay for stats and some subject line customizations for RSS to email.

Considering that it’s all free, there’s little room to complain. But, like the above, there are reasons for dissatisfaction. So, why are more bloggers not switching?

For starters, it’s easier to stick with FeedBurner. No, it’s not perfect but it is good enough and the far and away dominant option. And for people who have been with FeedBurner from the beginning, there’s significant historical data there. Not to mention, the fact that migrating could mean the loss of some subscribers.

A close second, is that bloggers are not aware of alternatives. FeedBlitz has made a big push to take on dissatisfied FeedBurner customers because of the early year criticisms. It’s a paid service, however, and that has likely slowed its progress.

The yet to be launched feedsqueezer may be another choice. While it will have a free service, it will be focused on being a paid service based on volume. Since its inaugural blog post in January ’09, it has been relatively quiet. I’m sure many will give them a go, especially because they will provide the ability to create a CNAME record, allowing a publisher to effectively own the feed address.

For the purists who want to own the feed address and the statistics, there are some platform-specific options like the WordPress FeedStats plugin. The one that I’d most likely move to, if I were not so complacent, is Mint’s Bird Feeder Pepper. In the event you still want to showcase your feed stats, there’s also a little Minty Readers Pepper.

Concluding Thoughts
For now, the cries of foul and fail against Google (FeedBurner) seem to have subsided. Some of that is due to Google’s efforts (they should address the feed address questions above) while another element is due to bloggers being too busy to be bothered with the annoyance of switching from a service that is good enough and arguably still the best option. At the very least, there are options to try and a now listening Google — and that’s definitely a better situation than six months ago.

Join thousands reading my insights on remote strategy, leadership, & operations.