Something Funny is Going On At Pageflakes

There’s an odd story developing that involves Pageflakes, a customizable Ajax home page product, and FeedBurner. BoingBoing was first to report this after noticing that their RSS feed count went up substantially from Pageflakes. Over 2 million RSS readers were counted from that service alone. It appears that someone may have set up some sort of bot to create Pageflakes pages with multiple RSS feed modules on each page for a few blogs, including BoingBoing.

But a second source of Boing Boing RSS readers has skyrocketed lately – from a company called Pageflakes. We frankly don’t believe that nearly two million folks have decided to subscribe to Boing Boing via this relatively new service, and we suspect someone (or more specifically, somebot) is taking advantage of the service for some kind of spammy reasons.

The net effect of this would be grossly exaggerated RSS feed counts, which could affect the advertising rates that a blog or other site using RSS feeds could charge. It seems pretty clear BoingBoing has absolutely nothing to do with this, and is working to fix the problem. But other sites are affected, too. Whether one of them is behind this or not is unclear. In an update to the BoingBoing post, a reader said that it may have been nothing more than a bug. That seems unlikely, however, since a bug of this scale would likely have been flagged and fixed.

Either way, this isn’t good publicity for Pageflakes, which struggles behind Netvibes in the customized home page market. And it may be worse news for FeedBurner. If their RSS stats become meaningless, one of the main reasons for using them goes away.

We’ve checked our own Pageflakes stats and nothing seems to be out of the ordinary. Let us know if you are seeing an issue on your blog or site. You don’t want to be caught in the middle of this if it turns out to be fraud.