I'm a developer in Melbourne, Australia, and co-founder of Hello Code.

Published Thu 20 March 2008

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Are aggregator sites getting a free ride?

I've recently discovered I like it. it has the very simple purpose of aggregating a number of popular social media sites (most of which are themselves psuedo-aggregators) into one easy to browse page, so that when people like me are bored we can scan for interesting links without expending too much effort.

But are sites like popurls just getting a free ride off the hard work of the sites they aggregate? Do they deserve their traffic when they don't provide any of the content?

It's easy to see it that way. The site provides none of the content itself, but could've been knocked up in a day by finding an RSS parser and choosing the sites whose content it would display. Not exactly a work of art.

But really, I think the answer is no — it's not a free ride at all. Just like 'easy' art which causes jealous viewers to mutter, "I could've painted that", aggregators provide a service which is inherently easy to do, but is still useful to the end user — whether they "could've done it themselves" or not, they didn't. The aggregator exists as a valid service, and while it doesn't create any of the content, it still provides the service of aggregating. As long as it doesn't attempt to exploit the content, all traffic the site receives is fair and valid.

Besides, syndicating your content through RSS only serves to increase recognition of your brand and traffic to your site in the long run. So the sites owning the content are still winners — everybody's happy.

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