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Feedly reminds us that there is nothing free on the internet

Once Google shut down their Reader service I set up a Feedly account. Like Google Reader, Feedly is a service which “subscribes” to a collection of web sites’ RSS feeds. An RSS “feed” is, typically, a chronological list of updates to a web site. Each feed entry contains a title, a link, a description, and in many cases it may contain the entire content of the linked article. Most blogging platforms automatically generate these feeds, making RSS an easy way to distribute a site’s content or updates. A feed reader, like Feedly, presents all of these updates in one place making it easy to stay updated on way too many web sites, spend too long reading after breakfast, and miss your train.

Feedly is a nice product. The web interface is very slick. The service works with Reeder, which I love. Feedly is a free service, with a “pro” paid option. I’ve enjoyed using it. But. There’s always a but.

This is why we can’t have nice things.

I recently discovered that Feeddly was hijacking content from RSS feeds and presenting it on their own site. Feedly lets you directly share any article on Twitter or other social networks. Instead of posting a link to the original article (the link that comes in the RSS feed), Feedly was automatically making a copy of the original article and hosting it on their website. This means the original web site wouldn’t be visited by anyone who looked at the shared link. The original web site would get no traffic, get no ad impressions, and make no money.

Feedly was literally stealing from other websites.

RSS feeds are provided by web site authors in good faith, in hopes that they will be used to link back to the original site, and to make it easier for their most dedicated readers to follow them. Feedly was abusing this good faith for their own gain. It appears this may not be an isolated incident.

How to leave Feedly

I decided, promptly, not to support this kind of nonsense and closed my Feedly account.

First I created a new account at FeedWrangler. FeedWrangler, at the time of this writing, costs $19 per year. The interface is less slick that Feedly, however FeedWrangler works well with my beloved Reeder, so that matters very little.

Second, I exported my subscriptions from Feedly. Feedly doesn’t make this obvious. While logged into Feedly visit the following URL: https://feedly.com/index.html#opml. This will provide you with a download link for your subscriptions in OPML format, the standard-ish format for exporting and importing RSS feed subscriptions.

Third, I imported my exported feed list into FeedWrangler. It only took a few moments to load up all of my feeds. I have about 150 subscriptions. I know. I have a problem. A few of my feeds didn’t end up in the right folder, or “smart stream” in FeedWrangler, but all in all, the import worked fine.

Fourth, I went back to my Feedly account and unsubscribed from everything. Out of spite. Then I followed the instructions here for deleting my account. Note again that you have to search for this information; it’s not readily available within the application itself.

Fifth, I updated my copies of Reeder on my phone and iPad with my new FeedWrangler account, deleted the Feedly account, and uninstalled the Feedly browser extension.

Last, I revoked Feedly’s access to my Google Account. Feedly uses your Google Account to create your user account on their system. Originally, Feedly used this access to import subscriptions from Google Reader. They won’t be needing access to that any more.

Hopefully

FeedWrangler is a paid-only service. They appear to be better citizens, with more respect for their users, who are also their customers. I’m hopeful that because of this arrangement they are unlikely to pull abusive stunts like this.

I’m disappointed in Feedly. Many sites try to make a little money by running ads. These aren’t big businesses. They are mostly individuals. Feedly willfully stepped in between readers and publishers, taking traffic and ad impressions away from the publishers. That’s abusive and unkind to the people providing a free resource, a free resource which is the foundation of their business.

Feedly has since stopped this practice, which I suppose is good. Now, with their disrespect toward content authors laid bare, I expect that they’ll be pulling some other stunt soon enough. None for me, thanks.