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October 2, 2012

Goodbye, Feedburner! Hello, Ownership of Our Platform

Picture of Keys with text "Do You Own All the Pieces of Your Blog"

Months ago, I wrote about the death of Google Friend Connect (GFC). Many people who used the GFC social media and feed reading service couldn’t believe that Google would drop a service used by so many. When it died, people lost blog readers and newsletter subscribers.

Rumors are swirling that Google is at it again, this time with their Feedburner service. You might be familiar with Feedburner if you’ve subscribed to a site’s RSS feed.

Many big websites use Feedburner because they provide statistics and tracking for their subscriber numbers and popular feed items. Many large author-related websites currently use Feedburner, including Dear AuthorSmart Bitches, Trashy Books, and Write to Done.

Smaller websites (like myself) signed up with Feedburner because they provide readers with email subscriptions to new blog posts. Users of the free WordPress.com blogging platform have the benefit of email subscriptions, but those who use the paid version of WordPress.org or another blogging platform need a different solution to offer an email option.

Is Feedburner Dying Out?

Several months ago, Google announced they were going to turn off the Feedburner API on October 20, 2012. Most people weren’t sure what that meant and promptly ignored the announcement. I’m no programmer, but I think that means any program connecting to Feedburner will no longer work, such as apps, widgets, or plugins to redirect a blog’s feed to Feedburner.

Hmm, on second thought, that doesn’t sound good.

People really started panicking over the past week and a half when evidence came to light leading to the conclusion that Google might be abandoning Feedburner. They shut down their Twitter account and blog, they let Japan’s Feedburner domain expire, they took several days to fix a glitch in Feedburner Statistics last week, and they’ve turned off AdSense for Feeds, their sole source of income from running the service.

Taking Control of Our Platform

Any time we depend on someone else to do something for us, we lose our control over the situation. Add in the label of “free,” and we can’t even complain much. “Free” things always come with strings attached, and the pieces that make up our online platform are no exception.

Whether Feedburner is on its last legs or not, I decided not to take the chance. As I mentioned in my post on GFC, I try to have my website—my online home—under my ownership. I use the non-free WordPress.org blogging platform and have my own hosting provider.

But I admitted in that GFC post that I didn’t have ownership of two pieces: the RSS feed for subscribing to my posts (which used Feedburner) and my website’s mobile platform (which used an external website). This maybe-maybe-not dance of Google—after all, they haven’t denied the rumors—was the kick I needed to get rid of my dependency on those other free services.

My Steps to Independence

I paid $4 for a mobile theme (for use with the Thesis WordPress theme) that lives on my website, not someone else’s. If you use a smart phone or tablet to access my site, you’re seeing a big difference today. I once again was making up CSS and PHP programming as I went along, so let me know if you see anything weird.

A “Switch to Mobile” or “Switch to Desktop” link is at the bottom of every page if you’d like to check it out. And let me know if you have design feedback. The mobile version of my website is very much a work in progress.

Despite the programming involved, building a mobile website was easy compared to deciding how to replace Feedburner. Most articles about the exodus from Feedburner admit there isn’t a good replacement for all their functionality and statistics unless you’re willing to pay $10 a month or more. No thank you. Instead, a few (free) plugins later, and I have control of my RSS feed, email subscribers to my blog posts, and some rudimentary RSS stats. Yay!

How Feedburner’s Death Could Affect Us as Readers

If you use a feed reader, such as Google Reader, to keep up with new blog posts of your favorite blogs, there’s a chance some of the sites in your reader will either drop off or freeze on October 20th. Like with the GFC issue, no one is sure what will happen and Google isn’t talking.

To get an idea of how this could affect us as readers, I opened Google Reader and hovered my mouse over each blog title in my “Subscriptions.” At the bottom of my browser window, the link for several of the blogs in my reader listed “feed.feedburner.com” somewhere in the URL address. We can keep an eye on those sites and see if they drop off our Google Reader or if they stop updating after the 20th.

How These Changes Affect My Readers

I’ve tried to make this transition as seamless as possible for all of you.

  • If you currently receive emails of my blog posts:

You shouldn’t need to do anything. I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed that my import of your email addresses this afternoon goes smoothly. You’ll know Thursday, when (if all goes to plan) the email of my Thursday post arrives with a different look.

The emails will still be sent from the same newsletter@jamigold.com address, so I hope they won’t all land in your spam folder. However, you might want to add that address to your email address book if you’ve noticed missing emails before.

  • If you currently read my blog posts from a feed reader:

Most of you should receive my posts just fine. From what I can tell from the stats, only 95 of you have your readers set to point to Feedburner directly. I’d tried setting up my Subscribe links to try to maintain some amount of control over my feed, but my tricks didn’t catch everyone.

Your feed reader entry for this blog should point to http://jamigold.com/feed/. Click on the link if you’d rather start over to make sure you have the right feed.

These posts will also change a bit due to the transition, as they’ll no longer have the pretty integration to share to Twitter or Facebook. I’m still looking into options.

  • If all this talk about getting updates of every post has made you curious:

Click on this link to go to my Subscriptions page. From there, you can sign up for my blog posts by email, by your internet browser’s default feed reader, or by a selection of several other feed readers.

I’ve also updated the email subscription form in my sidebar to handle subscriptions for both new blog posts as well as news about books and freebies. This is the same email form as on the Subscriptions page.

(And I apologize if any of this is confusing. Honestly, it’s a miracle if this makes any sense. It’s currently 4:30 a.m. Tuesday morning after only 3 hours of sleep the night before. *sigh* My aunt died yesterday morning after an emergency trip to the hospital last week, and between that emotional blow and this unplanned redesign/reprogramming of my website, I’m really short on sleep.)

Now, I don’t mean for any of this to sound alarmist. There’s a possibility that the shutdown of the Feedburner API won’t affect you or anyone you know. And we can’t possibly literally own all the pieces of our blog, as we don’t plan on turning our home office into an internet server farm.

However, it’s always a good reminder to occasionally weigh the costs and risks of our choices. It wasn’t worth it to me to buy the mobile theme and take the time to do the programming until the plugin I had been using started inserting third-party advertising above my website on mobile devices. *Grr* Gee, all of a sudden, that $4 sounded like a bargain. *smile*

Are you familiar with Google Feedburner? Had you heard these rumors of its demise? Do you use a feed reader or is this all Greek? How much of your blog do you own? How much don’t you own? Do you worry about any of those pieces you don’t own? Do you have any questions, comments, or suggestions about the changes I’ve made to my website?

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What do you think?

52 Comments on "Goodbye, Feedburner! Hello, Ownership of Our Platform"

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Gene Lempp

Just checked over the Google Reader subs and about 35% are Feedburner (including yours, which I will update momentarily). Love when companies decide to quietly do away with things that are useful. Thanks for the heads up on this, hadn’t been paying any attention to it but apparently I’ll need to spend a few hours fixing my subs.

I took a look at your mobile version on my phone and it looks great. Thanks for the info and tips, Jami 🙂

Chihuahua Zero

Yeah, it looks like everyone’s talking about Feedburner.

I use mostly free tools, but because I lack a reliable, long-term income. Maybe I should consider building a blog fund.

Jami's Tech Guy

Hi Jami,

Sorry to hear about your aunt. My condolences to you and your family. 

Your being twice bitten by Google mimics what many others have experienced with the various “cloud” services. Even free services have a price – which is why we focus on service instead of the lowest price.

Anyhow, I hope you’re asleep and not yet reading comments. I’ m glad you were able to get everything working so well. Have you considered a career in piracy? I mean tech…

Take care!
-Jay

Renee A. Schuls-Jacobson

I’ve been reading about this, and — honestly — I hardly understand it. If I don’t hear from you, I’ll come looking for you on Facebook. This is why I’m not self-hosted. I’m not tech savvy enough to figure out anything that you just talked about. I freeze up even hearing about it.

And I would need access to your tech guy 24/7.

Hi Jay. 😉

Amanda

Wow. I’ve been thinking of “buying” my WordPress domain name, and I was a little worried about my current (and future) email subscribers. I finally figured out my current subscribers shouldn’t have a problem, but now…grr. Fortunately, I know a web designer, so maybe this transition won’t be too hard. Thanks for the info, now go get some sleep 🙂

Jordan McCollum

One quick note: most plugins that redirect your feed to FeedBurner are done on your website’s end (through simple redirection), so discontinuing the API has no effect on them. I don’t know if/when Google will shutter FeedBurner itself, but I see no reason why discontinuing the API would affect simple feed delivery (or widgets from FeedBurner itself, such as feed count widgets, etc.).

Now, if we’re talking about a more complicated set up that does involve apps/widgets/etc., I can’t say for sure.

I do think it was wise to use your WordPress feed address!

Nancy S. Thompson

So sorry about your aunt. I use GFC, and my blog is free via Blogger. But all the blogs I read I reach via links through my own blog or, most likely, via a shortcut on my iPhone home screen. I have my faves I never miss. Others I follow via their comments. It works for me. And now, I’m glad I never relied on any of those services.

Tamara LeBlanc
Tamara LeBlanc

Hmmm, very GREEK to me. Not only did I not have a clue what a feed burner is, or was, but I didn’t know it’s about to end.
I still don’t have a blog, or a website. I need both.
But I get very nervous when I even think about them. There’s so much to worry about, so much to learn, so many things that can go wrong, but so much to miss out on if I continue on this path without either.
I need to reach readers in ways other than just Twitter and Facebook.
But hearing this makes me think that this is all WAY over my head and always will be.
I need to take a class on this stuff.
I’m SO glad you talk about this stuff and bring it to our attention.
Thank you, THANK YOU, for your wisdom.
Have a great evening,
Tamara

Jami's Tech Guy (Jay)

Tamara, when you start seriously thinking about a website hit me up on Twitter with your questions.

-Jay
@jaytechdad

Marcy Kennedy

I’m so sorry about your aunt. My husband’s step-father passed away last month after a fall, and it’s never easy to lose someone, no matter how long you have to prepare.

As for the contents of this post, that thump you heard was my head hitting my desk. I’m not tech savvy and am currently without a web person, so I’m struggling every time I need to make a significant change. I already have a list of things I’m not able to do on my own that I have to wait until I can find someone new (and save up the money to pay them).

I hadn’t heard about the potential demise of Feedburner on October 20. I’d planned to switch from Feedburner to MailChimp (free to use for up to 2000 subscribers) when I take my yearly blogging break between Christmas and New Year’s because that’s the soonest I thought I could fit it into my schedule. I was making that change because a MailChimp account is more under my control. (I’d also looked into AWeber because it’s a better service, but it’s more complicated to use and costs even at the basic level.) Now I’m going to have to make the switch sooner since I’m not willing to take the chance.

I don’t have a clue yet how to switch my RSS away from feedburner so that I control it.

DiDi

THANK YOU! For all this great information. You just saved this non-techie reviewer a HUGE headache and tons of tears.

K.B. Owen

Hi, Jami!

I have your blog on my Google Reader (I use Chrome). I didn’t realize that’s the same thing as feedburner. I know, I’m pathetic. I am so tech-challenged, I don’t even know the features I have before they get taken away, LOL. It doesn’t say feed.feedburner when I wave my mouse over yours, though, just your domain name/2012/etc… A few of my subscriptions say “feedproxy,” though – don’t know what that means. And this whole “mobile theme” thing; not a clue. I remember when I picked the theme (I am self-hosted, too), it said that it was mobile-friendly/adaptable, or something like that. (See how useless I am in the cyber-world? I need a cookie. Sigh.)

I am SO sorry about your aunt, Jami! Hang in there. Why are you writing code? Go get some sleep, and have some pie. (Not necessarily in that order).

Hugs,
Kathy

Donna Hole
Donna Hole

None of it makes sense to me 🙁 I had my son set up my blog (on blogger) and I’m kinda afraid to make any changes. Someday I might consider more of a webpage type thing.

………..dhole

Fiona Ingram

I am safely receiving posts via email! Just a quick virtual hug to say I am sorry for your loss. I know how hard it is when someone passes. One is never prepared.

Todd Moody

Hi Jami, sorry to hear about your Aunt, I had a similar call recently but it was my Dad, he had a stroke, but he actually got to go home after a few days in the hospital. He’s 86, so I expect more of this.

I am clueless when it comes to RSS stuff. I had no idea about this but it makes me wonder if having so much invested on a free site is a smart thing. My blog has been with Blogspot for more than two years and I would hate to lose all that if they decide to close down Blogspot. I had intended to go pro with the blog eventually, but sooner might be here now. Great post as always!

Todd Moody

BTW, I have your URL memorized, so I will be back if the feed drops. Yours is one of the few that I don’t miss. 😉

I.J.Vern

Hi Jami. Great post.

As you know, I’ve recently designed and created my new website. On my own, since I’m a computer freak and not only. 😉

I didn’t use Feedburner, the reason being that I want to have everything on my server. I don’t want databases, especially with other people’s data which I like to consider as confidential (e-mail addresses for example or IP addresses), to be kept on third parties servers which I can not control. I tested a lot of plugins (I don’t use wordpress.com), some of which even crashed my site and had to re-program some things, and I chose one which worked best for me. At least for the moment.

But that’s me. I understand that many people are not PC inclined, so I have nothing against third parties services, but if one can keep as much control over something on their own or maintain a backup choice to save their databases in case a third party service ceases, I think it’s the best solution.

Jenny Hansen

Jami,

I get your posts via email and today’s came through just fine. 🙂 Sorry about your aunt, and I hope you get some sleep SOON!!

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[…] Goodbye Feedburner! Hello Ownership of Our Platform by Jami Gold (Feedburner closes down on Oct 20th) […]

RAJ
RAJ

YOUR POST IS REALLY NICE AND SHOWING MUCH SENSE IN IT !

BUT I HAVE A QUESTION THAT
SUPPOSE….I AM MAKING MY OWN SUBSCRIPTION FORM AND EMAIL PROVIDING SERVICE TO MY SUBSCRIBERS

BUT I AM THINKING OF EMAILS GOING IS SPAM… HOW TO STOP THAT OR WHAT TO TAKE CARE WHILE DOING SO.

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