Tuesday, January 27, 2009

FeedBurner woes, and how a little transparency can go a long way

As noted by TechCrunch, FeedBurner is having some tough times:
Complaints about Feedburner, a service that helps websites manage their RSS feeds, have been around as long as the company itself. But you’d think that when Google spent $100 million to buy the company, they’d get it together.

But things haven’t gotten better. Instead, the service is becoming unreliable. Feedburner problems plague website owners far more than they should. And while Google is notoriously slow in absorbing its acquisitions, it’s far past time for them to get their act together and turn Feedburner into a grown up service.

Michael Arrington then points to the lack of transparency, which went from bad to worse:

The main Feedburner blog was shut down in December 2008 and everyone was told to head over to an advertising-focused blog for Feedburner news. I think it’s great that Google wants to do a better job of inserting ads into feeds to make money for publishers. But they have to focus on the quality of the service, too, or the ecosystem won’t work. The message they’re sending to everyone is that the service doesn’t deserve a blog, just the advertising they bolt onto it. Imagine if they did the same thing with search.

Feedburner also has a known issues page that shows what’s currently wrong with the service. It’s clear from that page that the team is having a lot of problems just keeping the lights on. The fact that this most recent issue, broken stats, isn’t reported there yet even though its days old is another red flag.

...

If Google wants to continue to manage our feeds, we need assurances from them that they want our business. Right now, I don’t believe they do. The people working on Feedburner clearly care about the product and their customers, but they either don’t have enough people or enough resources to take care of business.

Visit the known issues page today and you'll be directed to the FeedBurner Status Blog. As minor as this is new blog is, I see it as a big step forward. There have been a couple updates just the past few days, which I hope is a sign that they are trying to up the transparency game and get to building that trust relationship they are so sorely missing.

Update: I just found a more detailed explanation from FeedBurner of what their plans are, and their renewed focus on creating a reliable and transparent service:
As many of you know, since becoming a part of Google in June of 2007, the FeedBurner team has been hard at work transforming FeedBurner into a service that uses the same underlying architecture as many other Google applications, running in the same high-volume datacenters. As a team, we chose this path for one reason: our highest priority is making sure your feed is served as fast as possible after you update your content, and is as close as technically possible to being available 100% of the time.

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To help communicate these issues and resolutions much more effectively, we have created a new blog and feed that you can subscribe to during this transition period. We plan to keep these around as long as necessary. We may also add features to the site that allow you to report your own feed issue details.

The extended team — including both original team members of FeedBurner, newer team members that joined us since we've been at Google, and the rest of Google — is excited about our future on this new integrated-with-Google platform that all publishers will be on at the conclusion of this account transfer process. We are excited because we see the potential for scale and innovation on this platform that will make for a true next generation feed management solution. Most of all, however, we are excited about getting publishers excited for these possibilities as we reveal what we have in store.
Kudos to the FeedBurner team for recognizing the opportunity here and acting on it. Only time will tell how successful this effort will be, but judging by the comments, I'm optimistic.

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