Google’s war on RSS continues, shuts down YouTube user subscriptions feeds

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One of the great features of YouTube is that you can subscribe to users and channels you are interested in. If you do so on site, you receive update notifications on your subscriptions page and various other places on YouTube.

Each update by a subscribed channel would be displayed directly to you on YouTube. If you wanted, you could also subscribe to a public RSS feed that would deliver those video updates to your favorite RSS reader.

If you have done that in the past, you may have noticed that feeds stopped updating some days ago.

That in itself may not have been cause for concern, but if you checked the subscriptions page on YouTube directly, you may have discovered that new videos were published on them.

The conclusion is simple: the feeds are not working anymore. According to ArsTechnica, it has something to do with the switch from YouTube Data API 2 to YouTube Data API 3, and the retiring of the former.

It appears that the new version of the API does not support this feature, and that support requests have gone unanswered mostly since January 2013.

When you try to open the feed url in a web browser, you get a forbidden message instead of a list of the most recent videos published on the particular channel.

Feed validation services such as the one from the W3C return the same information.

Workarounds are discussed on this Google Code page. The problem is that none are that easy to follow. One requires you to run a Python script and get a server API key, one to get an OAuth2 token and modify the feed url based on it, and another is a php script that you can run locally or on your server.

If you are tech savvy enough, you may be able to get this working again, but if you are not, you are more or less at the mercy of Google to introduce the same feature again to the site.

What you can do

Instead of using the subscriptions feed, you can subscribe to individual channels instead. The advantage is that it still works and is easy to accomplish, the disadvantage that you may need to subscribe to quite a few channels for the same information, and that they are separated by channel or user.

You don’t get one feed that displays all video updates, but multiple feeds instead that you need to go through.

You can either visit a channel on YouTube and subscribe to the feeds this way, or modify the following url directly if you know the username of the channel: http://gdata.youtube.com/feeds/api/users/ghacks/uploads

Do this if you prefer to do this manually:

  1. Open the videos page of the user that you want to create an RSS feed for.
  2. Right-click on empty space there and select the view source option from the context menu.
  3. Press F3, type rss, and copy the url displayed here to your feed reader.

Considering that the first bug report dates back to January 2013, it is unlikely that a fix is high up on Google’s priority list. A Google employee confirmed in January 2014 that a patch was in the making but four months later nothing happened in this regard so that the feature stopped working in the past couple of days.

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