[iDC] Will you delete your Feedburner account?

Peter Bihr peter.bihr at gmail.com
Thu Jun 7 11:40:45 EDT 2007

Hi all,

So far I've pretty much lurked on the list, so I guess this thread is a 
good opportunity to come out of the shadow here :)

Some of you have expressed concerns about the Big Players buying up the 
small upstarts like Feedburner. I understand those concerns. However, I 
don't agree. Let me try to briefly outline why:

First of all, the Feedburner guys (or any of the others) wouldn't sell 
their company if they wouldn't want to - it's not like there's been a 
hostile takeover, or is it? It was intended by the founders, and as far 
as I remember they never claimed that their goal was to stay 
independent. (I might be wrong here, but that's the way I remember it.)

Second, if this gives those creative minds the funds to start something 
new and cool, then I'm more than happy to let Google buy the old 
company: Resources for those who create new ideas, companies, services 
and tools are much more valuable in the long term than any company could 
ever be by itself, because it's the foundation for future innovation. 
(Of course that's not the issues you pointed out before. I'll get to 
that in a sec, please bear with me :)

Third, while Feedburner data is valuable, I don't think it's overly so: 
What's valuable here it the pure reach, plus the data analysis tools, to 
sell adspace in feeds. While I agree this might be annoying, it's part 
of the deal: Free tools are mostly not really free, but just free of 
immediate payments - we mostly pay through ad consumption. (Open source 
software, of course, is to a large degree the exception to that rule. So 
if there is any real alternative to Feedburner on an open source basis, 
please post it here. However, since the traffic has to be paid, I can't 
really imagine how there could be one.) Additionally, as long as my data 
at Feedburner is used by Feedburner/Google, I wouldn't mind as long as 
the use adheres to some privacy standards, i.e. as long as this data is 
aggregated and anonymous: Why not allow for use by the service that 
makes me as a user happy? Think synergy. Question: Would a buy-out 
option be a viable solution for you? For example a paid service that 
gives you back full control over your data while still enjoying the same 

Four, in the particular case of Google I have to say that I _do_ 
understand the scare of monopolized power and information. However, so 
far I even trust Google with my email, which of course is much, much 
more valuable than feed data. For two simple reasons: I don't think 
Google is more evil than your average small email provider, plus Gmail 
covers my need like no other service out there. Just a matter of 
personal choice, of course, but as long as I trust anyone with my email, 
not trusting them with other stuff would be hypocrisy on my behalf.

Five, and this is a central point in the whole web 2.0 world, I'd say: 
Most of us allow the use (aggregation etc.) of our data quite freely. CC 
licences give us the means to retain control of our content and much of 
our data. But most of us don't enforce it: I can't really tell how many 
services out there use the CC-licenced feeds in your blogs or mine which 
are for non-commercial use only, and use them to fuel their businesses 
through aggregation services and the like. Do we cease-and-desist them, 
sue them, or even just write them an email? So far, I haven't, and I'd 
guess it's similar for many of you: Because honestly, many users simply 
profit from the extra exposure. (Keep in mind Tim O'Reilly's old quote: 
"A musicians biggest enemy isn't piracy, it's obscurity." In that sense, 
many of us profit from the extra reach of our content, primarily in 
social returns like reputation, credibility and the like.)

I've exaggerated a little here and there to make my points clear, but 
you've noticed that anyway. There is one point, though, that was brought 
up that I definitively agree with and can't stress enough: The 
importance of clean, smooth exit options in whatever service we commit 
to. From a business point of view, lock-in is good, as it keeps the 
customers in. However, this is a very oldschool business model, and a 
bad one. If we can only get our data in, but not out again, we're stuck. 
I'd go so far as to say that wherever that's the case, you can be sure 
that the service you're signing up for has something or another to hide. 
Maybe a standard, or badge, or commitment to some kind of standard body 
could be a way to go here, so that companies could adopt a standard of 
easy-in, easy-out as a sign of good quality and trust. We'd all know 
what we're in for.

Now this got way longer than intended - my apologies, and thanks very 
much for following through!

Peter Bihr


Alex -Vipowernet wrote:
> Alex Writes:
> Of course those who aggregate data own it.
> Data is not "information" until it is aggregated into useful order. 
> Data is just chaos until you must apply "neg-entropy" to find the 
> patterns and order in the data - THEN you have useful information!
> In the 1980's I created the Boston Computer Exchange.  We aggregating 
> data about people who owned computers they wanted to sell and buyers 
> who wanted them.  Once  a week we reported the *"BoCoEx Closing Prices 
> Report"* and this little report was picked up by all the major 
> computer magazines and appeared as a new item. A lot of people had 
> price information - we had aggregated it and made it into a report - 
> thus we added value. And later sold access to that data to those who 
> needed it...
> There is irony in your comment about small companies are being bought 
> up by BIG companies - nothing new in that - what is ironic is that the 
> BIG companies were themselves tiny upstarts just a few years ago... 
> Google did not start as a HUGE enterprise worth billions - it started 
> as two guys in a garage. Same for Feedburner...
> There is no point in trying to stop the process.  It will go on 
> whether you like it or not. 
> The message is LOUD - find an area of data that is NOT being addressed 
> and create an enterprise that aggregates data and processes it into 
> useful information.  Any of us could have created YouTube or 
> SecondLife or FeedBurner... Those guys put in the sweat equity to make 
> it a success. 
> Find an area that is NOT being addressed and start to work.
> Alex Randall
> Professor of Communication - Univ of the Virgin Islands
> Former Owner - Boston Computer Exchange
> Burak Wrote:
> You've probably following the recent news about the small scale 
> social web 2.0 companies being acquired by giant corporations (e.g., 
> StumbleUpon acquired by Ebay, Feedburner acquired by Google). 
> Feedburner tracks your blog's RSS feed statistics and shows the 
> number of subscribers momentarily, daily, weekly, monthly, and 
> yearly. Now all your data is changing hands, from Feedburner to Google.
> I wonder how you feel about it?
> I think this is an important moment to pay attention to how inhumane 
> the data ownership laws in USA: One who aggregates data owns it.
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