January 22, 2008

FeedBurner Defaults to Google Over Other RSS Readers?

UPDATE: This might be how FeedBurner handles cookies. As I primarily use Google Reader, it's likely I see Google as my default, thus making it less of a corporate issue, and more of FeedBurner making the process easier for users to stick with what they prefer. Let me know what you see. I will leave the post intact below.

Sometime around the beginning of January, I noticed a simple tweak to Google's Feedburner RSS syndication service, which favored its feed readers over that of the competition. The change no longer featured an array of buttons for web-based news readers, ranging from My Yahoo! to NewsGator, Bloglines and Netvibes.

Instead, it says simply, "Subscribe With Google", forcing the visitor to click and select alternative options, should they want to.

FeedBurner's subscription options: Before and After

The "Subscribe with Google" button leads customers to adding the new feed to Google Reader or iGoogle, an unsurprising move, given Google's acquisiton of FeedBurner last year, and no doubt further accelerating Google's market share growth in this space.

January 2007 statistics from Hitwise showed Google Reader in fourth place, behind BlogLines, Rojo and NewsGator, with 1/13th the market share of the leading BlogLines.

By September of 2007, as Richard McManus of Read/Write Web reported, using HitWise's updated statistics, Google Reader had nearly caught up to overtake BlogLines.

Now, a year after the first report, it's commonly assumed that Google's FeedFetcher, which combines activity from Google Reader and iGoogle, is far and away the leader. In fact, in my own statistics, Google accounts for more than 50% of my subscribers, more than eight times the tally from the second-highest services - a tie between BlogLines and NewsGator.

My RSS subscribers breakdown from January 22nd, 2008.

As Google acquires more independent services, and begins to tie their technology to favor their own over that of the competition, it wouldn't surprise me to see alternative providers crying foul, the way they did when Microsoft integrated Internet Explorer with Windows. After all, if RSS feeds are the way we gain information and the feed reader is today's equivalent of the mid-90's Web browser, is this not an interesting move?

See Also: FeedBurner: From Fee to Free: Should We Flee?


  1. It's a cookie issue. I opened your Feedburner link in Firefox and noticed the old display was there, but then switched onload to the Google Reader button. I use Google Reader, so my guess was it's detecting that.

    I opened it in IE6 and the default buttons showed up, which was one confirmation of this.

    Deleting my Google cookies and Feedburner cookies, and reloading it in Firefox displayed the buttons as usual. Looks like Feedburner just sets a "standard reader" cookie based on previous selections.

  2. Unsurprising indeed. Like many others, I use Firefox and so just click on the "live feed" icon (or whatever it's called in the address bar.

    Given that IE7 is coming soon as an automatic upgrade, the same will be said for most others.

    Since people can determine where their "live feed" points them (right?), then there should be not gripes about that.

    Personally, I always found the FeedReader option page to be kind of annoying.

  3. gregor, thanks for your comment. I'm not surprised if that's the case. I tend to add feeds by hitting a bookmark I put in Safari to add to Google Reader, so when I did click on the chicklet and saw "Subscribe to Google" it was a surprise. It used to always offer more options.

  4. I guess FeedBurner remembers the last newsreader you used to subscribe to a particular feed and offers that as a first option.

    For instance, I used desktop based FeedDemon and therefore for me it says "Subscribe with FeedDemon".

  5. Sometimes... the truth is a lot less exciting than you think. Makes my argument look a bit silly, but that's why I had the caveat that I wasn't 100% sure when I first wrote it.

    But I won't be deleting. That'd be silly.