Shyftr, which stands for "Share Your Feeds Together" is a service that attempts to mix a feed reader and a social networking site all in one place, where you can share your feeds with your friends and find similar feeds. This all sounds great, except for one crucial error: they started re-publishing the feeds of sites without the publishers' permission. This allowed search engines to index the feeds -- similar to what "splogs" do -- and essentially take traffic away from the original site, diverting it to Shyftr.
Bloggers were not pleased.
Show Me The Money for My Blog
A lot of the uproar was over loss of potential ad revenue. Traffic is money, after all. A commenter on The Blog Herald put it best when they had this to say: "Such usage breaks the ?Ask First? manners of the web, using my hard work for income generation without my permission, nor reward for such allowance. If there is money to be made by blogging, I want a piece of the pie they are making with my content."
Don't Take Away My Community
On the other side of the coin, the other uproar was over the loss of comments and decreased potential to foster a community on your blog. Power blogger Robert Scoble, who has made a name and a living for himself off his widely popular blog, and who coincidentally has gotten in trouble for re-using data he has found on the Web, was okay with Shyftr's actions and sees this as an indication that "the era of bloggers' control is over".
Scoble indicated that he will go where the conversation goes, whether it stays on his site or moves to a site like Shyftr or social network aggregator FriendFeed, another site that allows for commenting on content off of the publishers' site.
Shyftr Not the Only One
As people get more and more of their media from the Internet and with the relative ease with which a robot can re-publish your RSS feed, it begs the question: what can be done to protect ourselves, as content creators?
It's not an easy answer as the very technology that makes the web so appealing (being able to share your work with others who may not otherwise see it) is also being used to re-publish it without your permission. What Shyftr was doing is certainly not unique to their site. A recent post on copyright blog Plagiarism Today points out three other services that do the same thing.
It may be safe to say that a time may come when we get all of our news from aggregated sites and networks rather than from the source themselves.
Shyftr Changes It's Tune
In the end, after negative reactions from some other A-list bloggers, Shyftr quickly changed their tune and had this to say on their blog: "We will only display the title, author, and date of an item where discussions occur outside of the reader. We deeply respect content publishers, and it is not our intention to cause unease."