Scripting News for 5/21/2006

Tonight’s CyberSalon looks to be pretty interesting. 

Pointers from tonight’s CyberSalon. Future of Music Coalition. Pandora. CD Baby. AfterTV

Thanks for all the links to the FeedBurner piece below. I’ve been thinking about this for quite some time, and talking about the idea with as many people as will listen. I think it’s important because it cuts to the core of how important identity is, and how simple it can be. I also think it foretells of what the users are going to be demanding of the vendors pretty soon, so if you’re a tech investor, you should pay attention. There’s definitely money to be made here, but there’s a fair way to do it, and that also, imho, will turn out to be the correct business approach. 

FeedPass does more than nothing 

A rough version of this post appeared as a comment on Mike Arrington’s latest on Feedpass.

I don’t like it when a decentralizing technology like RSS is centralized. What happens if Feedburner goes out of business? How many feeds would we lose on that day?

I certainly don’t approve of newcomers doing what Feedburner does, without even asking for permission to do so! Who are these people? How do we know whether we should trust them? Why should I have to trust them?

Further, it’s not good business, long-term, to take advantage of the naivete of trusting users. Eventually what was once mysterious becomes commonplace, and they figure it out. I was there when they figured out copy protection in software in the 80s, and boy did they make our businesses rock. Rightly so.

It’s like the backup issue that comes up every time Typepad goes offline, whether or not it’s SixApart’s fault, the users all of a sudden start to worry about what would happen if the company went offline permanently.

The beauty of RSS is that it doesn’t depend on any one company, until stuff like this comes along. The fact that they might put ads in the feeds is only a small issue relative to the larger one, the fragility of a centralized network.

BTW, I’m aware of the major competitor coming into the market that Mike talks about, ominously, in the last sentence in his post. I don’t know what their policy is on this. I am available to help them, but so far am not in the loop. It’s a good time for us to be looking at this stuff, because I’m sure it’s going to be much-discussed when the new system comes online (or when Mike leaks its existence, whichever comes first).

How to compete with FeedBurner 

If I were going to launch a competitor to FeedBurner, here’s how I’d do it.

First, I’d either do a deal with a registrar, become a registrar, or merge or partner with one. It’s absolutely essential that the user own the domain that their feed is hosted at, so that, in case of emergency, they can switch to a different hosting service. If they don’t own the domain, it doesn’t matter how many promises the vendor makes, or how well-intentioned they are, an act of god could result in a blackout of a huge portion of the RSS network. It’s irresponsible to host a large percentage of the net’s RSS feeds at one domain. I would set it up so it’s the other way around. My hosting service won’t host your feed unless you own the domain.

Further, it would have to be very easy to set up, that’s why we’d bake in the registrar functionality. We’d even suggest a domain name if you can’t think of one, something like oe913qvijj.com or zeu5ba5wv.org.

The reason this works is that the domain name system has already been set up so that one registrar can take over the registration of a domain. No need to invent a new system. Your feed goes where ever you want, whenever you want.

Then, once you have a domain registered, you can check a box (which would be on, by default) that allows us to host your feed for you. Sorry, you will have to pay something like $7 a year for the hosting service, but you get to act like a customer, and we will treat you like one.

Further, I’d allow readers to become customers too. When they subscribe to one of the feeds we host, if they’re willing to pay a flat fee, we’ll eliminate the ads in the feeds we serve them, and share the revenue with the people who author the feeds. I don’t really like ads myself, so I’d pay the fee, happily. Some people want to put ads in their feeds, and for them, we’d offer a competitive price, with the added advantage that we allow readers to not have to see the ads if they’re willing to pay to not have to.

It’s a little bit more complicated, but it’s a sustainable business. When FeedBurner’s users are up in arms when some media conglomerate has bought them out and is starting to redirect their feeds to Viacom and Fox properties, or inserting their own content alongside yours, like adding a idiotic liberal bedwetter post alongside your rant about immigration policy, or generally messing around with your ideas, we’ll be above it, because you’ll be able to opt out of our system any time you want. We won’t be able to screw with you, because you’ll be able to switch, easily, without our help. (If you’ve ever tried to get off AOL, you know why that’s so important.)

Disclaimer: I’m not starting such a service, this is just to illustrate a point. But I likely would invest in a venture that was taking this approach.

The Da Vinci Crud 

Okay, despite my decision to wait for the DVD, I went to see The Da Vinci Code yesterday, anyway.

What a shitty movie! Wow. It was so not fun.

I had read the book, so I knew what was coming, it’s a clever story, at least I was looking forward to the punchline. (The book has a great one.)

Instead, as all the reviewers have said, they chicken out, and the ending isn’t an ending at all.

So you suffer through two-plus harrowing hours of bad acting and even worse directing, and in the end nothing at all happened, except a bunch of money was spent.

There are no lessons in this movie about antiquity, but an unintentional but clear message about the spineless lackluster times we live in.

Yeah it was worth seeing, if only to understand how dead popular culture is.

4 responses to this post.

  1. Dave,
    I get your point as to how easy switching helps prevent against issues like outages or business disruptions. The flip side is that it’s usually a good idea from a business perspective to raise a barrier to entry for potential competitors. I’d think that investing in a company whose customers can bail at any time doesn’t make great long-term sense (um… see the dot-bombs circa 2002, and, today, Google). Still, your point is relevant that a better system needs to exist. I’m just not entirely convinced this is it.

    Reply

  2. Great Post!!

    Reply

  3. Yes, he is right great post

    Reply

  4. If you buy feedburner pro they allow you to use your own domain for your feeds and just forward to them – giving you complete control of the feed?

    see http://blogs.feedburner.com/feedburner/archives/001270.html

    I don’t consider myself naive about the risks of feedburner hosting my feed, I understand them and I still choose to use them, I think building services that add value in the middle between service provider and service consumer are very cool, and feedburner is an example of a service that is doing that.

    here’s my blog response: http://swik.net/User:alex/Alex+Bosworth+-+The+Races/Dave+Winer+throws+down+the+gauntlet+against+Feedburner/dwst

    Reply

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