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.