Feed stats, one of FeedBurner‘s main features, is currently broken, and Google quietly wrote a shutdown notice for the API. FeedBurner is a product that has been neglected by Google over the years. Yet, as the dominant product to manage RSS feeds, many developers count on it and expect it to be reliable. The future of the service remains unsure and a service shutdown is not out of the equation.
FeedBurner, which was acquired by Google for $100 million in 2007, was not part of the latest round of shutdowns announced by Google. “We have no news to announce at this time,” said a Google spokesperson to TechCrunch today.
Today’s issues are related to stats. Subscriber counts went down to zero — users are still reporting missing stats many hours after the outage.
The API will shut down on October 20 as well. The notice was quietly added months ago but users are finally starting to see it. It will give developers less flexibility when it comes to analyzing stats, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that the service is following the same route. To put this in perspective, FeedBurner’s blog and Twitter account were shut down back in July.
For those who have forgotten how the service works, here is a short summary. After having associated your original RSS feed with FeedBurner, Google’s service turbocharges it and provides four essential features. It caches the feed on Google’s servers and delivers it quickly thanks to PubSubHubbub. Subscribing to a feed is easier thanks to an HTML page that replaces the XML file in your browser. You can choose to embed ads in your feed in order to monetize it. Finally, FeedBurner provides stats to content creators, such as the number of subscribers.
Even if RSS is slowly going out-of-fashion due to user-friendly and popular services such as Twitter, Flipboard and other comparable services, many developers still rely on the technology. For example, Flipboard uses RSS to subscribe to some websites. Even more relevant, in some cases, RSS has become more popular: podcasts have become mainstream and are in fact RSS feeds with links to audio or video files enclosed in the feed.
FeedBurner competitors have appeared over the years and can now replace FeedBurner’s features. For example, MediaFed sells advertising into RSS feeds, MailChimp allows for the delivery of RSS-to-email newsletters and Feedblitz serves RSS feeds the way FeedBurner does.
When it comes to FeedBurner’s situation, it doesn’t seem to be a priority for Google but the service is not expected to shut down as long as Google doesn’t announce a service interruption. Nevertheless, it is hard for developers to trust a neglected product.
That is why some notorious FeedBurner users such as Dan Benjamin who runs 5by5, one of the most prominent podcast networks, already announced that it is moving away from FeedBurner.