It has been nine years ago, in 1998, when Tim Berners-Lee wrote Cool URIs don’t change. Since then that text has not lost any of it’s relevance. Of course more people are aware of the problem and know how they can assure that permalinks stay permalinks. But as now there are more sites with more content out there in the net, the problem that pages can’t be found where they once have been is still very much alive.
Fortunately a lot of sites offer the possbilitiy to search the content and search engines help to find the page that we are looking for.
But what is annoying me more and more nowadays and becomes a problem for me is, that RSS and Atom feeds change. This happened to me with several blogs and sooner or later I will have the same problem with podcasts and videocasts. Of course I know that the address of an feed is nothing else as an URI, so that Tim’s article also applies here. But it seems people do not think about it.
People make changes to their blog platform or their CMS or they use another tool to publish their articles and this new tool’s feed has a different URI. Maybe after a while I may realise that a blog has not been updated for a while and having a look at the site I may realise that there is new content. You may say if I don’t miss this site in my feed reader it won’t be so interesting or important. But with more than 100 feeds and some of them updating only from time to time it’s hard to remember all of them.
Google Reader shows you the inactive feeds in the Trends section and Bloglines marks the feeds that make problems. That’s nice and handy. Although Bloglines sometimes was so helpful to delete feeds although they still existed and only had temporary problems. Don’t know if this is still happening.
There are several solutions to avoid problems with feeds. There is Feedburner out there that provides a permanent feed also including statistics. But as Feedburner joined the big Google family, some may not want to use this service.
Maybe it is possible that the new publishing tool uses the same URI. If not, you could try to redicrect the old feed address to the new one. In any case you should inform your readers that the feed changed and they should update their feed readers.
People should not forget that changing the feed without letting people know about it, they will loose readers. Readers that may not be coming back.
So please try to keep your feed URIs and notify your readers of any changes, if possible in advance.