winer’s on to something here – open source feedburner that is

Dave Winer has been bloggingabout feedburner in response to Google’s acquisition of the company.  Dave is concerned about how Google might co-opt feedburner to their benefit – ie. special tie-in’s to google reader for instance that might put other readers at a disadvantage (hmmm sounds a lot like what Microsoft has been accused of with regards to Office and Windows integration).  

Fred Wilson – VC extraordinaire (this is a compliment) and investor in feedburner (seriously has there been a better web 2.0 hit rate then Fred’s?) believes Dave is just whining unnecessarily - that if Google were to muck with Feedburner folks will just switch their feed aggregator to a Feedburner competitor.

My two cents (though probably only worth 1/10th of that):  I am in Dave’s camp.  I don’t think Google will do anything maliciously, but I do worry about the unintended consequences of google trying to improve the google reader-feedburner-analytics integration.  Integration points will go undocumented (because that happens with all software which is what I think happened with Windows per my earlier comment) and the marketplace will be forced to choose between Google’s “closed” platform and everything else.

Re: Fred’s point – I actually don’t think switching is a realistic alternative.  The switching costs are too high (as a VC I think Fred understands the value of high switching costs since it comes up in every competitive review I’ve ever been involved in).  My guess is that 80% of anyone’s RSS subscribers are passive and 20% active.  My assumption is the 20% who are active would take the time to switch the RSS feed, but you would likely lose 80% of your subscribers by switching feeds.  Is it worth the risk of losing perhaps 80% of one’s blog subs?  For most likely not.  For an analogy look at how many people switching cell carriers before number portability – essentially none.  One’s RSS URL is likely the equivalent of a cell phone number – change it and you lose touch with your network.  So as much as Fred says that we can all just leave Feedburner – I think he’s wrong – for the moment we’re stuck at the mercy of Google.  And being any more at the mercy of any company – Google included – is not a good thing.

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3 Responses to winer’s on to something here – open source feedburner that is

  1. Pingback: Scripting News for 8/1/07 « Scripting News Annex

  2. Daryn says:

    of course it’s worthless after the fact, but if you had setup your feed to be served from your own domain using feedburner’s “mybrand” feature (or through other trickery), switching would be easy and you wouldn’t lose anyone by migrating away.

  3. Pingback: Sawickipedia » Blog Archive » McClure + Google + Metrics = Advertising OS and Lock-in

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