As posted on the FeedLounge blog, I’ve left FeedLounge.
Here are the quick bits:
- Last Wednesday, I sold my share of the company to Scott and he is continuing to run the service.
- I am no longer involved in anything FeedLounge related (except in a historical sense).
- Scott and I don’t hate each other and never got into any screaming at each other or mud-slinging or anything juicy (sorry rumormongers), we just couldn’t agree on how to move forward from the status quo. I consider Scott to be a friend and continue to tout him as one of the smartest and most capable engineers I’ve ever worked with.
For those who want more details, read on…
A Brief History
When Scott and I first discussed creating a feed reading service (in January 2005), we decided on a simple and proven model for the business: offer a basic free version and upsell a portion of our customers to a premium version that has a monthly fee.
Along the way, we discovered a whole mess of challenges in scaling the service and eventually decided to go live with only the paid service to start. This was a tough choice, and it annoyed a number of folks who were anxiously waiting for the doors to open.
In retrospect, I don’t know if this was a good idea or not. Once we were live as a paid service, maintaining the service and trying to scale it became job number one (slowing down our ability to innovate and execute new features). And even so, we struggled.
Sometimes life gets in the way of what you want to do. Scott and I both had to take some time away from FeedLounge over the last year and a half. We both have mortgages and Scott just recently became a father, giving him a whole slew of new responsibilities.
When you’re making your living as an independant developer, you’ve got to make sure you get your bills paid. While we had attracted a number of loyal users, FeedLounge was far from paying 2 salaries plus operating costs.
Trouble Moving Forward
About a month ago, I approached Scott about changing the FeedLounge status quo. I didn’t feel that we were providing the level of service necessary for us to attract and retain users, and we were continuing to struggle with a variety of issues. I didn’t feel like we were moving forward as much as we were treading water.
In fact, I proposed a number of options that included temorarily halting billing, turning off registration and even shutting down the service entirely to allow us to address some of these issues.
I felt that we needed to:
- Fix the bugs
- Improve stability and uptime
- Move forward quickly (and perhaps in different directions on the back-end) to offer a free version as originally planned
I believe that the little guy can beat the big guy, but has to do so by delivering a superior product and user experience. Small wins born from execution provide momentum, and you can grow from there. Failing to execute is something the little guy just can’t afford, and ultimately I feel it is where we came up short.
Unfortunately, Scott and I had a fundamental disagreement over where our major failings (as a business) were – and as a result, what needed the most attention. The more we discussed things, the more they boiled down to this single point of disagreement. If we couldn’t agree on how to move forward, how were we to move forward?
While I was willing to shut things down, Scott believes he can get things turned around with time. I hope that he does. FeedLounge is the best user interface and user experience I’ve ever built, and I’ve got a lot of blood, sweat and tears invested in it.
Ultimately, the choice for me to leave was very hard, but one I felt had to be made. Despite hard work and the best of intentions, the level of service we were providing to our FeedLounge customers was just not something I was comfortable putting my name behind.
For the time being, I’m going to concentrate on making the Tasks Pro™ 1.7 and Tasks 2.7 releases the best they can be (folks love tagging!) and get them out as soon as possible. But I still believe that the RSS/Atom/Feed space is one that is ripe with potential. I’m discussing a variety of possibilities with a variety of folks and weighing a number of options – don’t be surprised to see me playing in the RSS space again at some point. 🙂
This post is part of the project: FeedLounge. View the project timeline for more context on this post.
[…] I’ve posted some more personal thoughts (including reasons for leaving) on my blog. Please leave any comments you may have on that post rather than this one. […]
Thanks for the details, interesting to hear other’s stories of web site struggles
Wow! This was some shocking news to say the least. Good luck to you Alex and thanks for getting Feedlounge to the point where it is today.
Good luck to Scott as well! I hope FL continues to improve and succeed.
Whoa! Oy. I certainly can agree with your perspective and decision.
Best of luck to you! FeedLounge, no matter what happens in the end, is something to be proud of. And your next idea will no doubt be even better for the experience.
Thanks for alerting me to this development, Alex. Things do make more sense. But more than making sense, the conscientious manner in which you followed up with me (concerning my post about FL) impressed me the most. It’s just honesty: you get it, and the customer knows you get it (even if there’s some distance between getting it and getting there), and that’s the number one product you can sell if you ask me.
Good luck in your future endeavors! You should be very proud of FL. Also, any reflections or advice you could dredge up from your experience as an online entrepenuer would be extremely helpful to us who want to go that path at some point.
I know I’m probably preaching to the converted on the alexking.org blog, but this is just one more instance where you’ve shown yourself to be a true professional. Nice work and good luck on your next project.
Really welcome back at some time to FL or any other RSS services, and thanks for your excellent work.
[…] One of the two creators of the ambitious FeedLounge web-based RSS reader has left the team. You can read the announcement (or here), which makes it sound as though there was some internal tension or something that prevented the project from going forward. Ultimately, the choice for me to leave was very hard, but one I felt had to be made. Despite hard work and the best of intentions, the level of service we were providing to our FeedLounge customers was just not something I was comfortable putting my name behind. […]
[…] A FeedLounge story: …Along the way, we discovered a whole mess of challenges in scaling the service and eventually decided to go live with only the paid service to start. This was a tough choice, and it annoyed a number of folks who were anxiously waiting for the doors to open. […]
What a tragedy not having you on FL anymore. I really had a lot of respect for the product just because I knew you were behind it. I also understand you not wanting to put your name on a product like FL right now because of quality. As all FL users know there are some issues, issues that we probably all just deal with because we love the product so much. And while we can do that I wouldn’t consider that an option in real like.
I wish you all the luck and I wish FL all the luck as well, as an avid user.
One question though, why not develop a client version? Something that you can sell for people to install on their own servers. I know a lot of hosting providers don’t like the idea but that’s not your problem so much because people will use it one way or another. Maybe even use the Google API to pull in the feeds while you use FL as the interface. I know the Google Reader API is open enough to do that.
Anyways, best of luck.
[…] alexking.org: Blog > Iâ€™ve Left FeedLounge What a tragedy not having [Alex] on FL anymore. I really had a lot of respect for the product because [he] knew [was] behind it. I also understand [he does not want] to put [his] name on a product like FL right now because of quality. As all FL users know there are some issues, issues that we probably all just deal with because we love the product so much. And while we can do that I wouldnâ€™t consider that an option in real life. […]
Other than the occasional outage, I haven’t really had any problems with FeedLounge, and I use it heavily.
Taking it down for a prolonged period of time would have forced me to switch back to desktop readers once again, so I’m actually really glad that didn’t happen. I hope Scott can resolve whatever issues FL faces, although it seems fine to me, as I’d rather not switch back 🙂
Kind of sad to hear you left Feedlounge – been there done that.
Today marks the day I switch back to NetNewsWire though. I loved the fact that feedlounge felt almost like a desktop reader (the best keyboard navigation of _any_ online feed reader), but the downtime, and the slowness has just gotten too much. So I reasoned with myself and said “you only use two computers, both of them macs. NetNewsWire costs 6 months of FeedLounge. Right, back to NNW.” I’ll be cancelling my FL subscription in the next couple of weeks.
I’m a long time user of Tasks and an early adopter of FeedLounge, so such news is hard to read.
However, you did a really great job, thanks for everything, and I hope we will find you later leading another great feed tool project!
thanks for the explanation.
I feel, though, that you aren’t giving Alex a fair shake by the way that you are characterizing FL:
“not something I was comfortable putting my name behind” and “didnâ€™t feel that we were providing the level of service necessary” is not something that should be aired publically in respect for Alex’s future prospects with FL. I thought your customers were largely happy with the service. Somethings should be left unsaid considering that the livelyhood of you former partner is at stake, is there really a need to go into details?
[…] Alex King recently announced he was leaving Feedlounge. […]
[…] I was really optimistic about FeedLounge at first, but they never addressed two of my major issues: no cell phone view and slow servers.Â Awesome interface, though.Â More on Alex’s blog and the FeedLounge blog.Â Scott: Consider open sourcing it!Â Alex: To add to your arsenal of cool products (Tasks, Tasks Pro, etc), consider building a structured wiki product like openrecord hopes to be.Â It’s the kind of project that’s right up your alley, and the kind of product that I need YESTERDAY. […]
its hard for you to decide with your partners, but i know how fun to go alone 🙂 w/o advicers, etc
anyway good luck!
I was there the first time you talked about FL and i waited ’til the launch day : i was disappointed for the paid-only choice.
I thinked that a ads-supported version could have granted you more money that only a paid version: i tried the service for 48hours and i was stunned!
But 5$ a month is too expensive, when you have other free alternatives online (and software too).
With your departure i hope all the better to Scott but i’m worried now.
I think that your effort in FL is (was) superb. Fundamental.
Cristian, from Italy
[…] Ora Alex dopo mesi di duro lavoro, ha venduto la sua quota al suo socio e ne Ã¨ uscito: troppo difficile pagare spese e due stipendi.Il fatto di aver offerto solamente un servizio a pagamento (e a 5$ al mese) ha limitato certamente il successo di un servizio ben realizzato: i costi e la necessitÃ di operare una buona scalabilitÃ sono stati d’intralcio allo sviluppo. […]
[…] I dropped Feedlounge and I just bought NetNewsWire. Since I’m always on a mac now I don’t have to rely on a web based RSS reader anymore I had to rethink my RSS usability, I really like FL but the recent departure of Alex King just made me look around. I really like the new beta, thanks Jason. The new combined view is a lot better, a little buggy but is still worth it. Having NewGator sync my two clients is also awesome, although it doesn’t do a great job and it doesn’t do anything if you forget to leave one open while you go to the next. […]
Good luck with your new business. And hope you’ll find a suitable partner!
[…] concert in Denver. I start looking into calendaring solutions. After a year and a half, I leave FeedLounge. I attend […]