Prepare for goodbye Feedburner in October 2012

[Update September 15: Moving on from Feedburner to Feedblitz. I decided to move away from Feedburner. The post you’re reading, and it’s update at the end, tries to throw some light on a murky picture, with limited success. I’ve made my decision to go to Feedblitz, explained in the new post.]

Did you know that Google intends to shut down access to Feedburner’s APIs on October 20? A banner note on the Google Developers Feedburner API page makes that intent clear:

Important: The Google Feedburner APIs have been officially deprecated as of May 26, 2011 will be shut down on October 20, 2012.

It is the case that Google signalled a limited future for Feedburner with its deprecation post in May last year:

[…] Following the standard deprecation period – often, as long as three years – some of the deprecated APIs will be shut down. The rest have no scheduled date for shutdown, but won’t get any new features. The policy for each deprecated API is specified in its documentation.

The post then listed a number of deprecated APIs that have no scheduled shutdown date, including Feedburner.

Well, we now do have that date – October 20, 2012.

What this means is that if you use Feedburner as a service that enables readers of your blog to receive your content via RSS or email every time you update the blog – and that includes audio and video (eg, podcasts), not only text content – that will cease working on October 20.

I’ve been using Feedburner since 2004. Over 3,200 RSS subscribers get posts every time I publish one, as do email subscribers. My content is widely syndicated via services like Newstex, Demand Media, CIPR Conversation and Web Pro News – all of which get that content from its RSS feed… via Feedburner. Shel and I use Feedburner for the FIR podcast.

I’ve looked hard and can find no mention anywhere of this Feedburner API shut-down on any Google website other than the banner text on the website I mentioned earlier. There’s no mention of the closure at all, anywhere, in my account at Feedburner. And if I click the link on "Feedburner blog" in my account, I get the Google Adsense for Feeds blog – which itself closed down in July.

Feedburner is the means by which over a million RSS feeds on websites deliver content to people according to the Wikipedia entry on Feedburner (and that was the figure in  2007: it must have grown even a little since then). Those websites include big media properties, mainstream and social, alongside individual bloggers like me.

RSS is the "delivery backbone" for creating and delivering much of the content that people use the internet for. You would have thought that turning off the flow of content that’s used by so many people and businesses is a pretty big deal, one that would warrant some communication from Google. I can find none.

It seems to me that Google isn’t taking any of this seriously at all.

I first heard about this when Rebecca Caroe emailed me a few weeks ago, and which was a discussion topic on FIR episode 666 on August 27. Yet at that time, no one had any clear information on a closure date.

Rebecca pointed me to a prescient post by Dan Thornton on August 3 which asked "Is Feedburner about to be closed by Google?" Dan linked to a migration guide by FeedBlitz – a Feedburner competitor with a paid service offering – and an interesting discussion thread on Dave Winer’s blog entitled "What if Feedburner closes?" on two technically-oriented ways to deal with the shutdown and keep your RSS continuity:

1. Google can use the redirection facilities built into the web to send traffic to the Feedburner version of your feed back to its original location. That way people can keep publishing their feed contents and the subscribers will continue to receive updates. It’s crucial that the connection between publishers and subscribers be preserved.

2. You can use the facility that Google provides to map a CNAME to your feed, so that if Google shuts down Feedburner, you can point that name at your main server, and your feed could continue to be accessed even if Google does not provide a redirect.

Without some signal from Google, I wouldn’t assume on the former happening at all. The latter approach looks more feasible.

If you use WordPress, you can simply revert back to your blog’s native RSS feed (which will be the underlying source for the Feedburner feed). You can also continue to serve your email subscribers with WordPress’ email subscription service. Other blogging platforms and services may have similar procedures.

Whatever you decide to do, you should take action right now.

(Hat tip to Jim Connolly for the heads up on the Feedburner shut-down date.)

[Update Sept 10, 11:45am:] As some of the comments on this post indicate, there is strong doubt that Google’s planned shutdown of the Feedburner APIs next month means that RSS feeds will no longer work.

Similar opinions have been shared in the discussion about this post on Google+.

Such opinions have validity, especially when they’re expressed by people I know and whose opinions I do respect. Adam Tinworth, for instance on Google+:

[…] Closing an API is not the same thing as closing the service. The Feedburner APIs did very little other than give you a way of pulling your Feedburner subscription stats into other metrics systems. The death of the API will kill a few WordPress plugins and some app, but not much else. The core business of serving feeds and providing metrics on them is not dependent on the APIs, and those services are unlikely to go away as long as Google sees value in serving ads through feeds. Given where Google makes the majority of its money, I suspect that day will be a long time coming.

A more positive read of this would be that they’re sweeping away the deprecated (and, I suspect, ill-used) APIs prior to the final integration of Feedburner into the rest of Google.

However, positive or negative, their communication has been terrible.

[…] RSS feeds should work absolutely fine after the API is shut down. They do not require or use the API.

David Kutcher, too. I don’t know David but his comments make sense:

[…]  unfortunately I can see what happened here: a development manager posted that update on the FeedBurner Developer site intended for developers that understood what they were talking about. When that post was picked up by non-developers it of course became confused.  I doubt any Google employee is going to post anything, mainly because to them (the development manager) they probably think they’re being crystal clear. The API is being shut down with no mention of the service.?

I’ve reached out directly to Google for clarity; if I get a response, I’ll add a further update.