Switching to FeedBurner Without Handing Over Subscribers

I recently began using FeedBurner to publish the RSS feeds for five web sites, relying on it to provide usage stats, check regularly for errors, and make the feeds more useful. Since the service was acquired by Google, there's been some concern among bloggers about whether it's a good idea to trust a third party to publish your feeds. Though FeedBurner exec Eric Lunt is one of my homies on the RSS Advisory Board and I've had good experiences with the company, I think the caution is well-placed when relying on any outside service for web publishing.

In this instance FeedBurner provides a free feature that removes the risk of using it. If you have your own domain, you can use MyBrand to create a new subdomain that hosts your feed. I created one for each of my feeds:

These domains redirect feed requests to FeedBurner's servers, but if Google ever shuts down the service or I decide to quit, I can host them myself or redirect them to a FeedBurner competitor. There's no lock-in at all.

The fear that FeedBurner might throw its weight around and try to knock off RSS 2.0 in favor of Atom seems far-fetched to me. One reason FeedBurner grew to 866,000 feeds was because of the confusion caused by multiple feed formats. Publishers and readers don't want to mess with that stuff or figure out which format to choose. Any site that makes potential subscribers choose between an Atom and RSS feed, as I did for the last year on the Drudge Retort, is going to scare people off.

FeedBurner makes a publisher's choice of format irrelevant because it works with all of them. There's even a SmartFeed service that converts feeds on-the-fly based on the formats supported by a subscriber's software, making it possible for an RSS-only client like Amphetadesk to get an RSS feed while an Atom-only client gets an Atom feed. All of this happens behind the scenes.

Considering how much FeedBurner has gained by shielding users from the technical aspects of syndication, it would be crazy for the service to pick sides.


Not entirely the case. When I subscribe to my MyBrand feeds in Netnewswire, it detects the redirect and subscribes to the feedburner feed. I was a little surprised when I saw this happen. However, it does not seem unreasonable for the feed reader to follow a redirect that I set in the C-Record at my hosting service per feedburner's instructions.

That's odd. My subdomains are A records, and when I've checked them out with HTTP Viewer, they don't redirect from my subdomain to FeedBurner. That shouldn't cause any RSS readers to subscribe to a feed's FeedBurner URL because it is never exposed to the reader.

It's not a redirect, not in the HTTP sense. Feedburner seems to have feeds.feedburner.com set to accept requests for all domains then checks to see if a feed is registered for the "pro" service. If so then it serves a feed with the "pro" domain swapped in. If a feed is not registered for Pro service, they seem to check the domain the request came in on (feeds.example.com) and see if there's a feed registered for example.com, if so they serve up the feed but with feeds.feedburner.com URLs in the feed, instead of feeds.example.com. If there's no feed registered from that domain then they 404.

I did my switch post google acquisition and became "pro". Perhaps I am being handled differently. I'll try again.

I checked again. I was confused in my original post. I think I had a legacy subscription to pre-pro feedburner in netnewswire. When I tried again in both NN and Google Reader, there was no redirect.

Add a Comment

All comments are moderated before publication. These HTML tags are permitted: <p>, <b>, <i>, <a>, and <blockquote>. This site is protected by reCAPTCHA (for which the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply).