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 Author, Smart 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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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?Pin It