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Feed Extinguisher

Sep 2017


Does anybody around here still use RSS?

I feel like most people have moved on by now. I mean it’s been a while since Google Reader came and went. And then podcasts started having their popularity spike but now they’re too starting to migrate into app stores and walled gardens.

But there’s still the irregular, thought-out, non-linkbait-ified blog posts of people just doing their own thing on the internet in peace. Nice. I can get behind that.

That brief period of popularity left behind some damage to the RSS ecosystem, but now that things are quiet again maybe it’s a good time to clean it up.

One thing that I’d like to clean up is FeedBurner. FeedBurner is what’s responsible for these sharing buttons injected into the bottom of blog posts:

FeedBurner also tracks readers and rewrites links to go through their tracking proxy. They offer publishers a dashboard which promises their posts will pay off if only they would please ANALYZE, OPTIMIZE and MONETIZE their readers with a few relevant offers.

The way FeedBurner works is by fetching a normal RSS feed from an author’s website then modifying it and republishing the modified version on feeds.feedburner.com. Then the author hides the links to their original version and points everyone to the new FeedBurner version. So it’s got a nice bit of centralization going on too.

When Google acquired FeedBurner they enabled it to stick ads onto the bottom of blog posts. The ads they served were pretty tacky and of course never relevant but this was before ad blocking came onto the scene so maybe they got a few accidental clicks here and there.

Apparently things weren’t working out as well as hoped because the ads and monetization features were shut down in 2012, about 9 months before Google Reader was killed.

Now FeedBurner is living out it’s final days in life-support mode. Over time it has become less maintained and I guess we’ll eventually reach a point where Google decides that few enough people care about their feeds breaking so it’s okay to turn off. No hints of when that might happen though.

In the meantime I’ve got a tool to share with you. Feed Extinguisher is the opposite of FeedBurner. What FeedBurner does Feed Extinguisher undoes. They are yin and yang, together completing each other in a cycle of adding and removing unnecessary crap from RSS feeds.

When you give Feed Extinguisher the URL of a FeedBurner feed it will try to find the hidden URL of the original version hosted on the author’s website. Then you can subscribe to that version in your feed reader and ditch the FeedBurner version.

Finding original feed URLs is quite easy because most are located at easily guessable URLs like /feed, /rss or /atom.xml. Feed Extinguisher automates this process of guess-and-check and has a few other tricks up its sleeve for harder to find feeds.

There is also a bulk mode available so you can do a one-off paste of all your subscriptions and Feed Extinguisher will try to clean up as many of them as possible.

Of course if you don’t want to paste your subscriptions into my sketchy website there is source code available to run Feed Extinguisher on your own computer either as a command-line tool or as a copy of the website.

I wanted to try something different with the website version because I noticed that self-hosted web services are often difficult to get running. Feed Extinguisher is a single self-contained binary that hopefully can be downloaded and run with no setup. So I’m a bit pleased it was possible to get that working.

Anyway I realize this is an obscure tool to fix a niche problem with a hidden-from-view service in a fading ecosystem, so not many people are going to be interested at all! If you do still use RSS and are subscribed to some FeedBurner feeds then I hope Feed Extinguisher can help you out!