No Feed is an Island: Introducing FeedFlare

We started with a cookie recipe and a dream, but we don’t bake well, so we restarted with the notion that publishers should be able to tether interesting services to their content anywhere it travels. In a recent Feed for Thought post, we wrote about the importance of the feed item and the ability to leverage the structure of the feed to build a bridge between web services and the content item. FeedFlare is our initial effort to make this vision a reality; if you’re a publisher or podcaster who shares this vision, or you just want a cooler, livelier, happier feed, then this service is for you.

FeedFlare is a one-step service that enables publishers to configure a very slim „footer“ containing customizable actions that will appear beneath each item in a feed. Here’s an example of what FeedFlare looks like to a subscriber of this blog’s feed.

FeedFlare is initially launching today with seven simple options, including:

  • most popular tags for this item via del.icio.us
  • tag this item at del.icio.us
  • Technorati cosmos: number of links to this post
  • Creative Commons license for this specific item. This works even if you are splicing, say, a Flickr photo feed into a blog feed and the two parent feeds have different licenses associated with them.
  • number of comments on this post (currently only for feeds created by WordPress)
  • email this item
  • email the author of this item (particularly helpful if the item ends up spliced into another feed or repurposed on a site).

Shortly after this launch, we’ll also integrate a „more like this“ option from Sphere which will link to a list of related posts at Sphere.

To activate the FeedFlare service, log into FeedBurner and look for FeedFlare on the „Optimize“ tab.

We have already come up with dozens of other ideas for FeedFlare. We will take a couple weeks to observe feedback and usage of this first subset of possible options, and then expand the solution from there. This is just phase one of FeedFlare, and there are two more phases to discuss here.

The Feed, The Site, The API
Very soon, we’ll provide publishers with the ability to tie FeedFlare into the originating web site content. This will give publishers the ability to ensure that a consistent set of actions and meta-data are displayed alongside the content wherever it is consumed. There have been numerous how-to’s for integrating tags and other services into web content, but FeedFlare will simplify this process and provide publishers with an architecture for genernalized content item processing – a CMS-independent plug-in framework for web services, if you will (and you should).

Shortly after we launch FeedFlare for Web sites, we will launch our favorite part of this service: an open API for adding new FeedFlare services. There are foreign language web services we don’t know about, there are web services that appeal to a small niche of publishers, and there are people out there who are far more creative than we. Those sound like three good reasons to make FeedFlare completely open, and we will publish a complete specification and API with examples. Anybody can write to the spec, and publishers will be able to start using these new services immediately. There is no application process or submission form at FeedBurner – services that implement the specification will just work.

There will be third parties and publishers who want to build more sophisticated services into FeedFlare that require integration with the publisher metrics dashboard we provide. We will have a program for these kinds of services too, and we’ll detail that when we launch the API.

Functionality Notes
FeedFlare is applied to all existing items in your feed. We don’t currently provide the ability to only show FeedFlare on new items, so the initial activation of FeedFlare will cause your items to be marked unread. Not ideal, and we are working on adding the option to only apply FeedFlare to future items.

If a particular action that the publisher chooses isn’t available (e.g., „links to this post“ is selected, and there are no links to the post), FeedBurner simply excludes this item from the rendered footer in the feed. This will be more important when we launch the open API and publishers select services that may not have been fully tested or aren’t working at the moment, etc. Open APIs are all about exception conditions.

Onward
Publishers, please dive right in, we build these things so that you can use them liberally and let us know what you think. Subscribers, enjoy the added richness as well as the actions you can take within your feed reader. Everybody else, please turn to page 41 of your FeedBurner Holiday Activities Workbook.

More questions? See our FAQ. Issues or questions about use? Hop over to the forums

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