The Case of the Disappearing Domain
Back in January, 2006, a few months before Google bought FeedBurner, FeedBurner launched a Japanese version of their service at, appropriately enough, FeedBurner.jp. There were translations and feeds for everyone in the far east, and it was a Good Thing. (It’s referenced in the old FeedBurner blog here http://blogs.feedburner.com/feedburner/archives/2006/01/kanpai.php but it’s no longer available online post-takeover; an archive is available on FeedBurner cofounder Steve Olechowski’s blog here http://www.burningdoor.com/lineofsite/archives/2006/01/ - scroll down to the Jan 26 entry, item 4).
Post-takeover, the site at FeedBurner.jp was relaunched about a year later, and you can see it referenced on Steve’s archive of the main FeedBurner blog here: http://www.burningdoor.com/lineofsite/archives/2007/02/
So Japanese FeedBurner users could host their feeds at feeds.feedburner.jp, log in to manage them at www.feedburner.jp and all was well.
Right up to the end of July, 2012, that is.
At which point Google failed to renew FeedBurner.JP – and lost the domain.
The effect was simple and immediate: Every feed published by a Japanese user on feeds.feedburner.jp went dark. I don’t mean there weren’t any more updates (although that’s also true); no. Every feed simply disappeared. All the logins to manage the feeds disappeared. All requests from a subscriber to any URL on any feedburner.jp subdomain (www and feeds, particularly) goes to the same third party landing page.
So all those publishers lost:
- Their audience.
- Their metrics.
- Their RSS and email subscribers.
All in one fell swoop. There wasn’t any warning, there don’t appear to be any workarounds, these guys are all royally hosed. Worse, Google has been silent and no help at all to these publishers, as far as I can tell.
How would you feel if that happened to you?
Now, I don’t know whether this was a SNAFU by the folks at Google forgetting to renew one of FeedBurner’s domains, or whether it was a business decision to simply not bother. I don’t know whether they’re trying to get the domain back, either.
So I don’t know, I know I don’t know, so here’s what I did: I asked Google these questions by mailing their PR address last week. They haven’t got back to me; if and when they do, I’ll post the response. I’m just not expecting one.
So what’s the lesson here? Don’t host your feeds using a third party service?
The lessons here are two-fold.
Firstly, it’s perfectly fine to use a third party service to serve, measure and add value to your feeds, provided that your subscribers are subscribing to a feed on a domain you own and you control (you use redirects to hand off serving and measurement to services like FeedBurner and FeedBlitz).
Secondly, for those who think that FeedBurner is too important to be simply shut down at some point in the future by Google (the “they’d never do that to us” theory), well … perhaps a little more caution is merited, no? They already did that to their users; just not to you.
To recap: FeedBurner’s blog and Twitter account are closed, and their API is shutting down October 20th. There’s no evidence that FeedBurner itself is going away that day – I’ve never said that – but if you think it ain’t going to happen some day, I urge you again to look at the omens and what has actually transpired so far.
Sure, FeedBlitz competes with FeedBurner – no great secret there – and so we have an interest in pointing out the cavalier way that Google is treating a respected brand, its publishers and the broader community. Since we do compete with FeedBurner, it means that we here pay attention to what’s going on.
Frankly, it’s time more people did.
And by the way? Count yourself lucky that your feed wasn’t hosted at feeds.feedburner.jp – RIP.