Don’t trust web apps (or how Google Reader and my ISP conspired to lose all my feeds)

In: Applications|Web development

17 Aug 2007

About a month ago, I logged in to Google Reader to see a shocking thing – all my subscriptions were gone and I was subscribed to some feeds that I’ve never heard of.

All my feed subscriptions gone from Google Reader

I would say I’m a pretty heavy Google Reader user, checking my several hundred subscriptions several times a day, so it was pretty distressing. I posted a thread at the Google Reader Google Group (the link doesn’t work now because they’ve moved the Google Group somewhere else for some reason) and several other people responded that they were seeing the same weirdness.

I had the same problem, and here’s the really weird part: I got YOUR feeds! If you look at the top of the page you can see the account you’re supposedly logged in with. Well, I saw your account there. And this was before I read this message. I also saw some other names every so often. Right now it says email censored.

Maybe it’s some weird mix up with the ISP. Do you use SingNet?

Some time later I started seeing other people’s accounts:

Seeing other people’s accounts in Google Reader

The problem affected only Singnet (a major local ISP) users in Singapore (about 7 other users in Singapore using Singnet responded with the same problems). No one really knew what the problem was and neither the Google Reader team nor Singnet (someone sent them an email) responded.

My guess was Singnet started caching Google Reader at a proxy and somehow managed to bypass all the credentials that was needed to modify any feed subscriptions. Sounds like a pretty nasty security bug to me.

The aftermath:

  • Google Reader no longer has my feed subscriptions (I didn’t manage to recover them so it’s still in the sad state of having only 1 feed subscription to some UK property shite).
  • I’ve manually rebuilt my OPML file (containing my feed subscriptions).
  • I’m now using NewsFire. It’s not decentralized so I can’t sync it between machines, which really sucks since I have 2 primary machines, but I’m wary of using online feed readers right now.
  • I regularly export my OPML file and check it into Subversion.
  • I’m looking for a reliable decentralized feed reader once again (having used Bloglines and of course, Google Reader prior to the catastrophe).

6 Responses to Don’t trust web apps (or how Google Reader and my ISP conspired to lose all my feeds)


Dave M.

August 18th, 2007 at 1am

I have seen that before. I was terrified that I had lost my OPML of RSS feeds. But I cleared my cache and restarted my browser and got them all back.

After that, I started backing up my OPML file, just in case…

It’s only happened that once, but it does make me worry some. Mostly for the stuff where money is involved. I’m not so worried if someone sees what I like to read.

Unfortunately, I have yet to find any other RSS reader (web based or desktop based) that works as well as Google Reader. At least for the way I like to read RSS feeds. I read from work and home, and I don’t like having to figure out what I have read at one place to get to the new posts.

Bloglines has a bug that causes all kinds of problems if you use some of their features and they have yet to fix them. Even though they have been in there for over 2 years and have been reported at least 3 times by myself.

There are a couple of desktop readers that sync with Bloglines (not very helpful) or by other means to keep what has been read up-to-date, but I haven’t found one that works for me well.

If you find something like that, where the reader syncs well from multiple locations and (unfortunately) is multi-platform (I’m forced to use a Windows system at work), please post the info here. I’m always on the lookout for a desktop reader that will work as well as a web based reader.

Thanks, and sorry to hear about the loss of your OPML list of feeds!


Chu Yeow

August 20th, 2007 at 10am

If you find something like that, where the reader syncs well from multiple locations and (unfortunately) is multi-platform (I’m forced to use a Windows system at work), please post the info here.

There’s actually a good candidate that satisfies most of our requirements: NetNewsWire. I’ve used the trial version and it’s pretty good and the web version works OK. It’s for pay though and I’m holding back a bit to see whether I can work something out between what I’ve paid for (NewsFire) or using something free and backing up my OPML file regularly.

Thanks for the sympathy! I think I’m OK now after recalling what most of my subscribed feeds were.


Dave M.

August 20th, 2007 at 10am

I’ve used NetNewsWire and FeedDemon. It’s not horrible, but I found it had problems syncing with NewsGator.

Now if either sync’ed with .Mac or Google Reader’s data, I would be soo there.

Right now, Google’s interface is perfect. It’s quick, does what I want it to, and best of all, it’s free. Sure, Google knows more about me than I do, but so does the government, so who am I really hiding from anyway?


Chu Yeow

August 20th, 2007 at 11am

Yup I agree with you, Google Reader was my perfect feed reader too. I think I’ll work out a plan to go back to using that and exporting and backing up my OPML regularly. Just can’t see myself forking out for NetNewsWire yet.



August 20th, 2007 at 12pm

I use Abilon to read feeds. It’s a freeware Windows app so I don’t have to worry about logging in, privacy and stuff.

But then again, it’s not perfect and the developers SisyphSoft no longer exist so there’s no chance of patches and upgrades.



August 21st, 2007 at 7pm

yeah… cache crap. I noticed that too when I shifted urls for one of the servers that I manage, and still discovered users trying to access the old url even though it had been a week already since the shift… It’s ridiculous, I tell you. There’s more insanity yet in the ISPs, but I shan’t rant here ;)

On the subject of feed readers, I’ve never really found anything that had what I wanted. There were some interesting ones that I stumbled upon (including one that had a for-pay model!), but suffice to say that I am not using a feed reader just yet… Perhaps I am crazy. Yeah, that must be it.