FriendFeed, Why Canabalizing Successful Web 2.0 Properties Benefits the Consumer
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.