Is Twitter Afraid of FriendFeed?
Disclaimer: If you are not familiar with FriendFeed this post may not make so much sense to you. If you are familiar with FriendFeed, congrats to you, you’re on the cutting edge. If you’re not familiar with Twitter, what the hell rock have you been hiding under, time to stop taking so many photos and spend a little time on the internets no?
An interesting post over on FriendFeed by Steve Gillmor asking a simple question, "what is the delay between tweets and arrival in FriendFeed?" Steve is talking about how long it takes for a Friendfeed user’s tweets on twitter to show up on FriendFeed. It’s not the first time that Gillmor’s raised this issue.
For those of you unfamiliar with FriendFeed, it is the current mother of all aggregators. It %*$*%ing rocks. FriendFeed pipes in all of your various playgrounds on the internet (Twitter, Flickr, Zooomr, Google Reader, your blog, Digg, Delicious, Reddit, etc. etc. etc.) into one easy to consume feed. It’s been the most interesting thing to come out for a while. It’s a better way to follow your flickr contacts, a better RSS reader than anything else you might be using right now, and one of the best communities currently on the web.
FriendFeed also though is probably the closet thing Twitter has to a real and viable competitor. As a photographer, the simple fact that FriendFeed offers visuals whereas Twitter is entirely text based alone is enough for me to call FriendFeed the superior platform. Essentially you can do anything on FriendFeed that you can do on Twitter but, well, better. In addition to posting real time post updates on FriendFeed (that are not limited to 140 characters) you get a far more complete run down on what your friends are up to.
The thing is though, one of the things that makes FriendFeed work so well is that you can leverage the existing larger communities elsewhere on the web at places like Flickr and Twitter. This is all possible because of cool things like open APIs and the whole culture of sharing kumbaya stuff that Web 2.0 (for lack of a better name) is supposed to be about. All our data belongs to us. All our data ought to be portable. Companies are able to thrive in 2.0 because they put our (the producers) best interests above theirs. You know the speech.
Unfortunately though, one thing that I’ve noticed in the past month is that my tweets that used to be instantaneously posted from Twitter to FriendFeed seem to be slowing down sometimes. I’m not sure why this is, but a part of me worries that maybe Twitter is doing something to slow down the firehose from Twitter to Friendfeed because they are afraid of FriendFeed as a competitor.
Last month Dave Winer suggested that the reason that FF isn’t overtly challenging Twitter right now is because if they do, "they might find their firehose slows down or develops gltches it didn’t used to have." And, well, that’s what it feels like may be happening. Do keep in mind that Winer did not accuse Twitter of this or any other wrong doing, he merely suggested it as a huge "if" as a possible scenario.
Now I have no idea if the reason why tweets do not seem to be posting as fast to FriendFeed as they used to has anything to do with Twitter. For all I know there could be a technical problem on FriendFeed’s end causing this. But I think the fact that tweets have slowed down on FriendFeed deserves a conversation about the causes.
Of course two of the things that may raise FriendFeed as a greater competitor in the eyes of Twitter could be the recent move that FriendFeed made to allow people to auto subscribe to their Twitter contacts on FriendFeed and to automatically post their FriendFeed postings to their Twitter accounts. Every one of these FriendFeed updates posted to Twitter includes a link back to FriendFeed. This is probably a very useful tool for constantly reminding the Twitter community that a better way to do lifestreaming exists over at FriendFeed.
As an interesting side note, Robert Scoble suggests that in Twitter’s recent move to begin "suggesting" Twitter users to new and existing subscribers that they seem to have bypassed the two FriendFeed users with the most followers, Scoble himself and Leo Laporte. Both of these users have been active on FriendFeed and Scoble probably more than any single other person has been instrumental in promoting FriendFeed as a service online. "I think Twitter is being threatened by friendfeed. The two most popular users of friendfeed (Leo and me) were left off of the twitter recommended friends list over on Twitter," says Scoble in the Gillmor’s thread.