March 05, 2008

ReadBurner Shuts Site Down for Good

ReadBurner burst onto the scene in January, offering the first serious attempt to harness the power of shared link blogs from Google Reader, and determine what RSS feed items were the most popular, democratically assigning equal weight to each person's share, instead of relying on proprietary algorithms, like TechMeme, Megite, BlogRunner and others do. But only two months after seeing the site jump into the public conscious, written up by major blogs, from Mashable, TechCrunch, ReadWriteWeb and Lifehacker (See: The Buzz), developer Alexander Marktl has decided to shutter the site, saying he just doesn't have the time to keep the site up and running, with real life getting in the way.

In my opinion, ReadBurner was the #1 new site to debut in January. It filled a necessary gap from today's RSS readers, and transparently identified who was reading my RSS feed, and sharing my items. From the time I first found the site, to weeks afterward, ReadBurner spawned multiple clone sites who similarly saw the potential, from Dennes Abing's Shared Reader to Benjamin Golub's RSSMeme. But February was very quiet for ReadBurner, as Marktl let the site idle, and Golub continued to develop on RSSMeme, adding new features multiple times a week in a seeming virtual two-man arms race.

And now, it looks like RSSMeme has won, with Marktl's goodbye message pointing to Golub's alternative, giving him the nod with "a very well done clone". In fact, Marktl is getting so far out of the business that he's even offering to sell the name.

Does this mean ReadBurner failed? Absolutely not, as far as a technology concept goes. The idea of sharing links, and learning what's popular is a central tenet of many of the major sites we've seen debut on in 2008, from LinkRiver to Shyftr to RSSMeme, AssetBar and others. But it didn't capitalize on the early buzz and first-mover advantage, and will go into the all too full dustbin of Web apps history.

For a little history on ReadBurner, see previous coverage:

ReadBurner, In Stealth Mode, Looking to Sort Shared Feed Items
ReadBurner's Unplanned Big First Day Shows Real Promise
ReadBurner Goes from 0 to 12,000+ In Four Days
ReadBurner Keeps Improving With Stats and Upcoming Items
ReadBurner Revamps Look, Adds Images Features


  1. This is the sad result of the commodification of web ideas. I know that only the strong survive, but how do you compete with an infinite number of clones, resources, or the inevitable "march towards free" that novel / niche services face?

  2. Wow, that was fast. I didn't even get a chance to check it out!

  3. It is sad but these things happen. Hopefully RSSmeme can fill ReadBurner's (large) shoes.

  4. Is RSSMeme hoarding our data? I don't see any way to get the source RSS feed for a user (i.e. for a shared feed publisher). I want to subscribe to some of the shared feeds I find on RSSMeme in Google Reader, but Ben Golub won't give me the original feed urls, unlike Readburner. Ironic since he snatched them up from Readburner and from our own shared feeds.

    Hey Ben, if you're going to appropriate our data, could you give a little back?

  5. Well..its sad to see ReadBurner close.

    Anyway...let me recommend Alertle for all your feed reading needs (I'm one of the geeks behind it!). You can browse through 100s of feeds and a lot of articles within a few seconds on it. Its got 3 things going for it:
    - Unique 3-panel interface
    - Intuitive keyboard shortcuts (up/down arrows..instead of 'j','k'!)
    - Autoplay - you can choose a speed to play your headlines, from 2 seconds onwards.

    Check it out at

    For a comparison with Google Reader, see

  6. @jb, it's hard to figure how some free sites can make money. But if you charged for them, we all know very few would come. That's why many who have the luxury of going free worry about traffic first and revenue later.

    @webomatica... shame on you! It was out for two months and I only wrote about it 50 times. ;-)

    And Benjamin, anonymous is right about RSS. Talk to Alexander about how to set it up, please.

  7. Wow, I don't know what happened because I used to show that's back now, you can view a users RSS feed and see their shared page.

    See mine:

    Sorry for that, next time if you email me it'll get fixed faster :)