Feedpass Does Absolutely Nothing

There has been a lot of debate about a new service called Feedpass over the last couple of days.

Feedpass, like Feedburner, will take any RSS feed URL and convert it into something more manageable. For example, I created a TechCrunch feed at Feedpass – compare it to my standard Feedburner feed.

Feedpass’ value proposition is that they add Google adsense advertisements to the feed landing page (but not into the feed itself), and they will share that revenue with whoever created the feed URL at Feedpass. For example, anyone can create their own TechCrunch feed, distribute it, and get a cut of any adsense revenue generated from it (note that anyone can create a feed on Feedburner from anyone’s RSS, too). This has angered a number of bloggers who see it as hijacking their content for commercial purposes (which is exactly what it is). As an example, someone, not me, created this version of the TechCrunch feed. Any clicks on ads on that page do not result in revenue flowing through to TechCrunch.

If you actually claim the blog, showing that you own the content, you will receive a higher cut of the advertising revenue (2/3 instead of the basic 1/3). This does not, however, stop people from creating other versions of your feed on Feedpass and distributing it for their own gain.

There are a number of legal and other issues that the Feedpass model raises. Is it fair use, or copyright infringement? I don’t know, I’m not an IP attorney. Is it ethical? I don’t think it’s particularly unethical. The posts within the feed clearly point back to the original content, so we aren’t in splog territory. But it definitely leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

In the end this just can’t compete with Feedburner, a much more robust solution for publishers. Feedburner provides stats and other tools that Feedpass doesn’t have at this time. And adding ads to the landing page for a feed isn’t that interesting, either, because the point of that RSS landing page is to turn the visitor into an RSS subscriber, not to generate revenue (Feedburner, I noticed, has dropped their one ad from that page, good for them). Note: if Feedpass inserted Google adsense ads directly into the feed, things might be more interesting from a publisher standpoint.

So in the end I’m not particularly outraged, I’m just ambivalent (as is Pete Cashmore). Feedpass has now had its 15 minutes of fame – I don’t think we’ll be hearing much more from them.

Feedburner, however, has a very real new competitor coming soon. More on that this week.

Dave Winer says he wasn’t angry, and after re-reading his post I agree that I may have characterized him inaccurately. Instead of removing the link (he has interesting things to say), I’ll note the correction here. Apologies, Dave.