Thursday, January 26, 2006

FeedBurner: who really needs it?

Seriously, who really needs FeedBurner, and how can they tell?

First, what exactly does FeedBurner do for you? If you didn't already know, their web site won't provide you with quick answers, at least not without some serious poking around.

What does the first screen tell you:

Publishers and Podcasters
FeedBurner helps you get a whole lot more out of your feed.

That tells me zilch.

It goes on:

Work with the company that understands feed management. (That’s us!)

Hmmm... "feed management", whatever that is.

They have an "About" button, so we click it and it starts by saying:

FeedBurner, summed up simply

FeedBurner helps bloggers, podcasters and commercial publishers get more value from the content they create. Our advanced feed management technology deftly delivers subscription services for publishers large and small so they can grow their reach, measure their audience and monetize their content. Founded in 2003, FeedBurner enables publishers to reach millions of subscribers in more than 190 countries across the globe. And that's a lot of folks. We are a privately held company headquartered in the very windy city of Chicago.

So, I get "more value" and "subscription services". People can "grow their reach", "measure their audience", and "monetize their content."

Still, that tells me zilch. The About page goes on:

Services for people who publish syndicated content

Whether you write a simple, personal weblog or manage a large industry content destination site, you probably have a vital interest in learning more about your readership over time. To date, understanding readership in your syndicated feed(s) has been a difficult challenge. However, by publishing your feed(s) through FeedBurner, you gain access all kinds of cool services to help you publicize, optimize, analyze and monetize your feeds.

Services for people who want to advertise in RSS feeds

Unlike Web site visitors, subscribers to feeds share one thing in common — a vital interest in the specific content of the feed to which they are subscribed. FeedBurner works on behalf of those publishers electing to monetize their content to reach their subscribers in a targeted way. Learn more about FeedBurner’s customizable ad program.

More nonsense, that basically tells me zilch.

Oh, FB lets me run ads in my blog feeds. Ah... that's finally some value. But why not tell me that up front? And why not call the service AdBurner, if that's the primary value I get?

But wait... they say "you probably have a vital interest in learning more about your readership over time." That's it, that's the key: FB lets you spy on your blog readers.

No wonder they're not up-font with their mission. It's sleazy enough to help publishers put ads in blog feeds, but to help spy on people as well is a little too much to disclose upfront.

Put simply, FeedBurner is SpyWare that happens to run on servers rather than the PCs of innocent users. As if that distinction really makes a big difference.

So, next time you are about to subscribe to a blog feed that is served up by FeedBurner, try to see if you can find the fine print about what information "they" (and whoever "they" are) will be collecting about you, and whether there is actually any legal restriction that prevents "them" (whoever "them" are) from using your usage information any way they choose.

In any case, I'm back where I started. Who really needs it? Is society really better off with this server-based SpyWare?

-- Jack Krupansky


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home