Google Reader Subscribers

I love Google Reader and have been using it for about 4 months to manage the 189 RSS feeds I currently care about. (Here are my shared items for anyone that is interested.)

While browsing the Google Reader FAQ looking for how to get vquences embedded properly I came across the following.

Does Google Reader report subscriber counts?

Yes, Google Reader reports subscriber counts when we crawl feeds (within the “User-Agent:” header in HTTP). Currently, these counts include users of both Reader and Google; over time they’ll also include subscriptions from other Google properties.

Here is an example from my logs – – [26/Jul/2007:07:31:54 +1000] “GET /blog/feed/atom/ HTTP/1.1” 304 0 “-” “Feedfetcher-Google; (+; 5 subscribers; feed-id=15287401989222975041)”

This is something I’ve always wanted to know. The stats aren’t particularly interesting but does point out an optimisation Google could make.

  • /blog/feed/atom/ – 5 subscribers
  • /blog/feed – 2 subscribers
  • /blog/feed/ – 1 subscriber

ie the last 2 are identical (note the difference is the trailing slash) and they are all pointing at the same blog. It would be cool if Google worked out the above are all exactly the same and only probed once.

Even more interestingly Google is probing these URLs at different frequencies.

  • /blog/feed/atom/ – Every hour
  • /blog/feed – Every hour
  • /blog/feed/ – Every 3 hours

Looks like it might be related to the number of subscribers, would be interesting to see other peoples data here.

3 Replies to “Google Reader Subscribers”

  1. How would you suggest that Google reliably, infallibly, detect this?

    I’ve got a bunch of feeds on my site that are very similar. For instance, my user account has a feed, which records all my blog posts. There’s also a site-wide feed, which, seeing as I’m the only user who regularly posts, is usually identical.

    It’s not always though – every now and then some other account makes a post. I’d be pissed off if Google had assumed they were the same and decided to ignore one of them..

    Stick in a couple of 301 (MOVED PERMANENTLY) redirects for the ones you don’t want – Reader should update those feeds for you.

  2. Actually, while Google Reader follows 301 redirects, and will immediately request the content at its redirect location, it doesn’t update its links. To put it another way, Google Reader will always come back to the original URL each time, following the 301 – so a 301 doesn’t stop the problem of requests being fired at discontinued feed locations. Annoying, really.

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