FriendFeed, Why Canabalizing Successful Web 2.0 Properties Benefits the Consumer

A Flicker of the Future

You can add me on FriendFeed here.

Yesterday I noticed that John Battelle, tech blogger extraordinaire and the guy that does the ads for my blog, announced that he’s finally starting a Twitter account. Which is great, but I can’t help thinking that John’s missing the boat by jumping on Twitter now, a year too late, just when all of the early adopters are moving from Twitter to FriendFeed.

Why are the early adopters moving from Twitter to FriendFeed? Because on FriendFeed you get the exact same thing you can get with Twitter… but better.

Yep, that’s right. FriendFeed essentially delivers a better version of Twitter than Twitter does itself. The biggest improvement? The ability to hide things. One of the biggest problems with Twitter has always been the noise. As much as you can find great, fast breaking news on Twitter, you also get tons of crap on Twitter.

For a while I was faving every Twitter message that Jeremy Zawadony twitted mentioning food and what he was eating. Just for the fun of it. On Twitter you get a lot of noise. With FriendFeed you can filter a lot of this noise out by simply hiding certain people’s twits. You can still get back to their stuff by clicking on the “Show 19 hidden entries” link, it’s not permanently gone, like if you dropped a contact on Twitter, it’s just temporarily gone. Which can be a very good thing to reduce noise.

On Flickr one of the things that I always hated was how Flickr only shows you the last 5 photographs uploaded by your contacts on the most recent photos from your contacts page. Every so often I’d go to one of my contact’s photostreams directly and find some photo from a year ago that I somehow missed. And I’d say to myself, damn, that’s a great photo, how did I miss that one. The answer is that since Flickr only shares with you the last 5 photos your contacts upload, anything more than that gets buried and effectively hidden from you.

FriendFeed built a smarter way to watch your Flickr friends’ photos. They show you the most recent 7 uploads and then they’ve got a little icon that shows you that there are more. At least for the most recent photos from your contacts, FriendFeed does a *better* job than Flickr does itself.

FriendFeed also allows you to build “imaginary” friends on the site to make sure you don’t miss photos from your Flickr friends who haven’t joined FriendFeed yet.

How else does FriendFeed do Flickr better? Well as of yesterday they’ve started including your friend’s favorited photos in their stream as well. Why is this cool? Because now all of a sudden you’re being served up great new photos that have already been filtered by your friends as being great shots. A lot less work than hunting and pecking through Flickr looking for great photos yourself. Many hands make light work. Since the faves are coming from your friends, people whose taste you trust, it’s better than the random boring crap being served up by Flickr itself on Explore.

Now when companies like Twitter and Flickr start seeing a new site coming out that is essentially using the benevolence of the Web 2.0ish “open API” to essentially pull views from their own properties you might think that they’d be concerned. And maybe they are or maybe they aren’t. At least publicly they can’t say that they don’t like this because being Web 2.0ish is all about being “open” and grumbling about someone pulling views from your site with your open API would sound somehow unsportsmanlike.

But make no mistake about it. As FriendFeed continues to innovate (and it seems like they are continuing to innovate almost daily) they will continue to pull traffic from the webs most successful social networks.

Now, why do I think that this is a good thing? Because I *love* competition. With competition the consumer always wins. Should Twitter have a hide feature? Absolutely.

Should Flickr show you more than the last 5 photos from your contacts? Absolutely as well.

Now why these two premium services don’t offer this functionality is unknown. Maybe they think other things are more important. Maybe they’re just lazy. Maybe development resources are being spent on scaling infrastructure rather than new features. But whatever the case, when a newcomer like FriendFeed shows up they are at some point going to have to take notice, because it’s only a matter of time before the early adopters pull over the rest of the semi-early adopters and possibly even later the mainstream.

The best thing about FriendFeed may possibly end up being that they force your favorite web 2.0 site to get better, faster in order to compete and keep you on their site.

And for those of you naysayers who say that FriendFeed is mehhhh, just ok. Pay attention. Remember four years ago when Robert Scoble told the higher ups at Microsoft to buy Flickr? And Remember when Robert Scoble went on and on and on and on about Techmeme 3 years ago? And now it’s an established Web 2.0 darling. And remember 2 years ago when Robert Scoble couldn’t blog enough about Twitter? And now you can’t listen to an episode of TWIT without hearing the word Twitter at least 2,000 times. Well pay attention to what Scoble’s doing and talking about now. It’s FriendFeed. Now I’m not sure if Scoble is spending more time on FriendFeed or more time on Twitter these days, but when the number 5 most followed Twitter user starts banging the drum hard about FriendFeed, it’s worth noticing.

Whether you like FriendFeed or not it’s definitely someplace you are going to want to start spending time on. Because the key to FriendFeed, more than anything (as Louis Gray aptly points out) is participation.

Oh and that little site Facebook? Dead. Dead. Dead.

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10 Comments

  1. Bob says:

    e reason to use FriendFeed over Social Thing is . . . ?

  2. Chris says:

    Interesting post. Makes me think though. If all of those sites that friendfeed agrigates are driven by ads and friendfeed is pulling the traffic away from those sites, are we eventually going to get to the point where they is nothing to feed?

  3. Ulrich says:

    Why not just use RSS? To not miss any news is what RSS is meant for. With Google Reader I do not miss a single post and select myself what I want to see.

  4. Thomas Hawk says:

    Why not just use RSS? To not miss any news is what RSS is meant for. With Google Reader I do not miss a single post and select myself what I want to see.

    Ulrich, because RSS isn’t as intuitive as friendfeed and feels clunkier. It also doesn’t include the comments that are now origination and conversations that are taking place on FriendFeed itself.

    e reason to use FriendFeed over Social Thing is . . . ?

    Bob, I haven’t tried Social Thing yet. Maybe it’s just as good. It seems to me though that there is more buzz and more useage from the early adopters about FriendFeed rather than Social Thing. What about Social Thing makes it better than FriendFeed?

    Interesting post. Makes me think though. If all of those sites that friendfeed agrigates are driven by ads and friendfeed is pulling the traffic away from those sites, are we eventually going to get to the point where they is nothing to feed?

    Chris, I doubt it. The established Web 2.0 sites are already established enough that I doubt the suction could shut them down. Maybe, lose some revenue, but I doubt they’ll be put out of business.

  5. Cybasumo says:

    Your site is already great! what can you ask for!? thanks for posting great photos!

    I just found out about a new website that helps musicians, artists, writers etc. to sell their work online without the need to go through record labels, publishing houses and all that stuff… It’s called CybaSumo.com – you sign up for free and they give you a free store on their website to sell your work through. They also offer a software widget that you can put on your myspace or facebook (or blog) to help you sell your work directly to your friends. They just started up this week, it’s probably worth checking out…

    Cybasumo
    http://www.cybasumo.com

  6. Colin says:

    I’m not completely sold on FriendFeed. I’m quite happy with the minimalism and focus of Twitter which FriendFeed just ransacks by adding all the extra stuff. Not to mention that FriendFeed commits the sin of ugliness. It’s so plan to look at that it’s hard to glean anything.

    Facebook I agree is dead — at least for anyone not in college — and I’m rather thankful for that. I’ve got a FB account but I’ve never really liked the service: too many pokes and zombies and superfun walls and more annoying junk.

  7. TranceMist says:

    Good post Thomas, you’ve gotten me to have a second look at Friendfeed and I’m liking it.

    I found twitter too lacking to ever visit their web page, but as a module in Friendfeed, it adds something.

    Friendfeed could do a lot more on their GUI (functional, not clutter). Things like prioritization, timelines, time correlation, and of course many, many more modules for feeding from other services.

    The level of Flickr integration is pretty good.

  8. Shawn Oster says:

    One aspect of social networking that’s always intrigued me is the rise of this pseudo class of nerd hipsters. They usually work within the tech field yet have no hard tech skills themselves, instead they are sort of like groupies or fanboys and at some point they go from hangerons to wielding influence. Like Scoble going from this awkward Microsoft fanboy trailing behind softies like a puppy dog with his camera to wielding a certain level of power.

    On one hand as a developer people like Robert Scoble greatly annoy me because half of what he says is pure drivel and from my perspective he has no real understanding of how tech works yet on the other hand without people of his ilk there really wouldn’t be anybody to develop for. The nerdsters are really the alpha testers, the ones you can count on to make or break your new hot web property, much like the real hipsters in the club scene, and their opinion doesn’t necessarily have to based around any real facts.

    All in all it’s a bit incestuous, like artists that only make art for other artists or for the art critics. Bay area developers pump out things like FriendFeed or Flickr or Twitter which at first really only appeal to the nerdsters like Scoble or yourself, then after much blog-sphere haranguing the second tier nerdlings get ahold it, such as developers, real hipsters or industry pundits and that’s just about when the nerdsters start flocking to something else, which also usually signals the exodus of the consumer masses to really start using the service, like students, soccer moms, CEOs.

    The last really interesting thing about the nerdsters is that they’ll often do quite a lot of whinging and hand-wringing over their darling or ex-darling web properties when things start to change. A perfect example is when Flickr changed to Yahoo logins and the amount of whinging yourself did on the matter, for you it was a valid concern and one that offended your nerd sensibilities but for the silent, 2nd and 3rd tier nerd majority they could have cared less and just rolled with the change. It becomes tricky because sometimes the nerdsters raise a real alarm about a valid issue yet they just as often grumble simply because the tourists have discovered their favorite watering-hole and the good ol’days are gone. Much like Twitter, a lot of nerdsters are jumping ship just as Twitter is really starting to take hold with the consumer masses, the tourists have invaded.

    Like any social environment it’s pretty interesting to watch.

  9. Xavier says:

    That’s another excellent post Thomas.
    I also had a second look to FriendFeed and this time gave it a serious try. I liked a lot the services integration like flickr and twitter itself. I also think that way of communication is definitely going to grow whether we like it or not.

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