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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Migration tool overview

Last week's announcement mentioned a migration tool we will be releasing in February, and a number of people have asked what it will do. In this post, I'll give a summary of the functionality, and then answer questions in the comments.

The goals of this tool are straightforward. It will:
  • ensure that visitors to your FTP blog are redirected to your blog's new home
  • avoid having pages from both sites end up indexed in search engines
  • preserve PageRank from your existing site to your new URL
  • update your Blogger settings so that future posts publish automatically
  • identify any necessary changes you need to helps you through each one
The tool provides a wizard-style interface which walks you through each of the four steps of the process:
  1. Backup your blog. Blogger supports full blog backup/export today, and before we kick things off we want you to have a full copy of your blog.
  2. Next, the migration tool asks you where you want to publish the blog once it's hosted by Blogger. This could be at a subdomain of your current domain (if you currently publish to www.yourdomain.com/blog/, you might want the blog to reside at blog.yourdomain.com), or if you don't own the domain you're publishing to, it might just be a Blogspot URL. If you pick a subdomain, we'll instruct you how to update your DNS settings so that the CNAME properly points to Google's servers.
  3. Once your blog is available at the new URL, we will write a final post to the FTP blog instructing users to the new URL, and we will then update your existing FTP pages by adding two pieces of information to each page on the blog: one is called a rel="canonical" link, which tells Google that the "canonical" location of the page is no longer the FTP URL but the new Blogger-hosted URL. The other piece of info is a refresh line, which tells the browser to redirect the visitor from the page they're on to the canonical URL after a short pause. Now that rel="canonical" supports moving content across domains, this is the path that Matt Cutts recommended we use to ensure that we could simply redirect all traffic from the FTP URL to the new URL. (More on rel="canonical" here, and more on refresh here.)
  4. Finally, we validate that the FTP URLs resolve to the new URLs — we just pull a couple of randomly selected blog posts and verify that they properly resolve to the new URL.
Most users will be able to use this tool to minimize the disruption of migrating off of FTP. Once done, you will continue to publish from Blogger — except that instead of watching as multiple files get uploaded to your webserver, your post will be immediately visible on the web and all archives pages are rebuilt automatically.

Some users will want to exercise more control over the process — we're also building a checklist to help identify all of the things you'll want to make sure you cover in manually moving your site off of FTP. More on that in a later post.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Updates from some FTP converts

Following last week's announcement, a couple of users have shared their experience moving off of FTP to Blogger's Custom Domain feature. We thought their write-up of their experience, along with their early reactions to the switch, was worth sharing.

Kent Newsome:
I've now experimented with Blogger Custom Domains and the newer features enough to confidently report that publishing via Custom Domains is a reasonably powerful platform.  The inclusion of static pages (via the Blogger in Draft beta page) adds the much needed ability to include ancillary pages.  See the index pages I added to Errbear.Com for an example of how to implement static pages.  I also found it reasonably easy to modify the new template, as you will see.  It's early, but so far I'm pretty impressed.

Conclusion
Overall, this was a pretty easy process.  I don't know if I the additional Blogger features that weren't available with a custom template will outweigh the limitations of a canned template, but I can tell you that the process of moving to a Blogger Custom Domain was pretty easy.

Louis Gray:
As a recently converted FTP Blogger user, I know the experience I had on the FTP site was less robust and less dynamic than the Google experience I've long been used to. Switching, though a non-trivial process last fall, which also saw me migrate from www.louisgray.com to blog.louisgray.com, has been nothing but good news for me since, with greater access to all the new Blogger features, and near-instant publishing without outages that used to plague the FTP service.

Both Louis and Kent have offered to answer questions on their posts, and you're welcome to post a comment here as well. We will be sharing more details about the migration tool that's being built shortly, as several people have asked specifically what we will be doing when we release it in February. Stay tuned.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Deprecating FTP

Update, 3/6/10: The Migration Tool is now live for all users; a walk-through of the tool is here. If you have used the tool and run into a problem, please report them here. Comments on this post are closed; you can direct general questions about the migration process on this thread and a fellow FTP user or someone from the team will get back to you asap.


(Cross-posted from Blogger Buzz)


Last May, we discussed a number of challenges facing Blogger users who relied on FTP to publish their blogs. FTP remains a significant drain on our ability to improve Blogger: only .5% of active blogs are published via FTP — yet the percentage of our engineering resources devoted to supporting FTP vastly exceeds that. On top of this, critical infrastructure that our FTP support relies on at Google will soon become unavailable, which would require that we completely rewrite the code that handles our FTP processing.

Three years ago we launched Custom Domains to give users the simplicity of Blogger, the scalability of Google hosting, and the flexibility of hosting your blog at your own URL. Last year's post discussed the advantages of custom domains over FTP and addressed a number of reasons users have continued to use FTP publishing. (If you're interested in reading more about Custom Domains, our Help Center has a good overview of how to use them on your blog.) In evaluating the investment needed to continue supporting FTP, we have decided that we could not justify diverting further engineering resources away from building new features for all users.

For that reason, we are announcing today that we will no longer support FTP publishing in Blogger after March 26, 2010 May 1, 2010 (update: deadline extended). We realize that this will not necessarily be welcome news for some users, and we are committed to making the transition as seamless as possible. To that end:

  • We are building a migration tool that will walk users through a migration from their current URL to a Blogger-managed URL (either a Custom Domain or a Blogspot URL)that will be available to all users the week of February 22. This tool will handle redirecting traffic from the old URL to the new URL, and will handle the vast majority of situations.
  • We will be providing a dedicated blog and help documentation to provide as much information as possible to help guide users through the migration off of FTP.
  • Blogger team members will also be available to answer questions on the forum, comments on the blog, and in a few scheduled conference calls once the tool is released.
We have a number of big releases planned in 2010. While we recognize that this decision will frustrate some users, we look forward to showing you the many great things on the way. Thanks for using Blogger.