Why Buying FeedBurner is Really Smart of Google

Techcrunch is confirming a rumor surfaced last week by former TechCrunch UK writer Sam Sethi – that Google is going to buy FeedBurner for $100 million.    Smart, smart, smart I say.  Here’s a couple of things I want to throw into the conversation.

Update: It’s official, both the Google Blog and FeedBurner posted on June 1st that the acquisition has happened.

Strength in the Business World

In addition to FeedBurner publishing my feed, probably your feed and likely the feed of every other blogger we know that has been blogging for some time – the company’s real juice may come from enterprise customers.  FeedBurner publishes the feeds of IDG Tech Publishing (PC World, Computerworld, Macworld), Reuters, USA Today, AOL, The Nation, Newsweek and who knows how many more.  They are also the feed analytics company of record. If you are one of the many feed aggregators on the web – you must have a relationship with FeedBurner too (we just announced one at SplashCast, for example).

Thought Leadership

FeedBurner is one of the flagship companies of a paradigm that I think is key to the web 2.0 economy – give free services to consumers to build brand awareness, scalability, etc. and then monetize enterprise sales.  The value they have a added to the world of self-publishers (bloggers) is huge – number of readers, platforms read on, FeedFlare – the list goes on and on.  FeedBurner is big, important stuff for the new world of online publishing. Without RSS feeds to subscribe to, the blogosphere itself would be much less viable. If you had to visit every blog you wanted to read, all of our blogs would have far fewer readers. Did FeedBurner invent RSS? No, but they excercised great leadership in linking RSS URLs to human readable HTML pages instead of pages of XML code – at least a year before Firefox did. That was really important.

The one weakness that some people have said they suffer from is in number and variety of ads to run.  That won’t be a problem any more if Google scoops them up, they’ll have an army of sales people and the AdSense machine behind them.

User Control Over Data

The other issue that some people have raised is that FeedBurner has too much control over their users’ feeds.  That concern is going to be taken much more seriously if they become a part of the Goog.  Data mining is not inherently bad, and Google’s going to get a whole new frontier for it opening up if they buy FeedBurner.  What’s the solution to privacy concerns?  In the long run, people are going to come to understand our digital assets, including our clickstreams and other data, as a resource that we graciously let these vendors chew on for as long as we are happy with them.  Just like interest I draw on my bank account is mine to take out of that bank along with my deposit at any time – so too will we someday have the option of nearly one-click export and erase OUR data from any given vendor.  Big vendors will understand this or they will lose.

FeedBurner has always tried to be responsive to data ownership concerns.  They charge a tiny, tiny sum to have their service run through your domain, for example.

If this acquisition really does go through it’s going to be good news for FeedBurner and great news for Google.  What does it mean for the rest of us?  We’ll have to wait and see.

See also:
How and Why to Use FeedBurner
My interview with FeedBurner’s Rick Klau “Making RSS usable, interactive and mainstream”
My coverage of FB on the Social Software Weblog (good stuff)
My coverage of FeedBurner on Marshallk.com
TechCrunch coverage of FeedBurner