Why I Don’t Use FeedBurner

There are 2 reasons I don’t use FeedBurner, in spite of all the cool features it has to offer:

  1. I want to own my feed URLs.
  2. I want to own my permalinks (item URLs).

The first can be somewhat mitigated by using mod_rewrite1, but the second it a bit more tricky.

URLs in FeedBurner feeds look like this:

http://feeds.feedburner.com/~r/tecosystems/~3/45177614/002475.html

instead of like this:

http://redmonk.com/sogrady/archives/002475.html

While I understand that this is necessary for them to provide the statistical data they do2, there are some fairly major tradeoffs that you have to accept:

  • Any tools people use to bring data from their feed reader to other tools (like their own blog, link blog or del.icio.us) will use the feedburner.com URL instead of the actual permalink for the page.
  • You are reliant on FeedBurner staying in business and continuing to offer service for these redirects from their site to your site to work.

For example, let’s say that I want to use the del.icio.us or Technorati APIs to show where folks have bookmarked/tagged a post on my blog. If folks are tagging/bookmarking directly from their feed readers3 then they are tagging/bookmarking the feedburner.com redirect URLs instead of my real links. I won’t necessarily show all the information from del.icio.us and Technorati that I want to because some of the activity is happening on a different URL.

This isn’t just hypothetical, I actually ran into this when rebuilding my site and creating my Link Harvest plugin.

For any feed reader I’ve used (NetNewsWire, FeedLounge), I create tools to make it easy for me to add items I’m reading to my weekly Around the web posts. Now I’ve got the same tools to create link blog entries as well. I’m lazy, I want to use the tools I’ve created – when I do that with an item from a FeedBurner powered feed, I get the feedburner.com redirect URL as a result.

If you look back over my Around the web posts, you’ll see a bunch of feedburner.com URLs. This both tweaks the stats that FeedBurner provides (since folks clicking through from my blog posts aren’t directly from the feeds themselves) and causes problems for reporting I want to do from my own data.

My links page is powered by my Link Harvest plugin. Until I did a rewrite to add special handling for FeedBurner URLs in the last few days, RedMonk (redmonk.com) was down around 15 links (now up to 53) on the list because, though I often link to Steve‘s posts.

So the question becomes, do I care enough about other people’s URLs that I’m willing to not use my tools for FeedBurner powered feeds? Or will laziness and automation prevail? That was rhetorical. ;)

FeedBurner is a big player in the feed space and I find accurate data to be more interesting than inaccurate data, so I am willing to do some special handling for FeedBurner feeds. As I mentioned, I’ve got a few special case handling solutions for Link Harvest. Not everyone will be willing to do this extra work though.

If you use FeedBurner, I’d love to hear how you feel about this issue – the comments are open.

UPDATE: Based on the comments below, perhaps I should have clarified this to be “why I don’t like the URL rewriting/click-through tracking feature of FeedBurner”. Instead of staying on the outside and criticizing, I’m going to test Steve Smith’s plugin.

UPDATE #2: Oops, I can’t actually use that plugin as-is because of my hack-fu that allows both my main blog and my golf blog to run from the same WordPress database. Time to hack.

  1. I don’t think that FeedBurner issues any 301s when serving their feeds. [back]
  2. Because most feed readers wisely strip JavaScript from feed content, which would be the other alternative. [back]
  3. Which I already do, and the feed reading tools are only offering more of this. [back]

This post is part of the project: Link Harvest. View the project timeline for more context on this post.