Thoughts on Systems

Emil Sit

Feb 26, 2008 - 3 minute read - Technology friendfeed web2.0

What value does FriendFeed add?

FriendFeed, which launched today, starts with a simple premise: it aggregates content you produce from various popular sites. On top of that, it allows you, your friends, and possibly strangers, to comment on your content. As a further social aspect, it provides some basic discovery/social-networking services. This is all viewable via a (currently) basic web interface or RSS. Given the various hype about this service, what’s the new value?

Discovery sounds much like what StumbleUpon offers. This feature is probably aimed towards virally spreading FriendFeed but is not part of its core functionality. Perhaps it can introduce you to content that you can’t already get by simply subscribing to your friends’ link blogs or feeds.

Commenting is a slightly troublesome feature: most existing sites allow users to submit comments and hold discussions directly on the site itself. In this sense, comments and diggslikes on FriendFeed are more of a hassle than a convenience. FriendFeed doesn’t import discussion that appear in comments of, for example, your imported Flickr images. It also doesn’t provide any mechanism for taking comments made on FriendFeed back to the original content host. Jeremy Zawodny called for an API to extract comments but it would be better if FriendFeed pushed comments back into services on your behalf (perhaps via trackbacks, at least for blogs), rather than creating yet another place where you will have to moderate comments. An excellent example of comment integration is PhotoPhlow, an irc for Flickr which makes it extremely easy to comment on Flickr images without forcing you to load Flickr’s web interface. On the other hand, FriendFeed’s model is perhaps no worse than reddit, and allows you to chat with a community of people you know.

Simple feed aggregation is not new: you can aggregate feeds without FriendFeed by sharing a tag in Google Reader, making a new Yahoo! Pipe, or using some other feed blending service. However, FriendFeed makes this tremendously easy to do—aggregation and display are its core functions, not an add-on. The community of feeds is what makes FriendFeed possibly addictive, in the way that Facebook’s News Feed can be. I can imagine FriendFeed becoming even more powerful, by adding filtering capabilities, so that you can exclude Twitter @replies or only import Flickr photos from a particular set.

FriendFeed may turn out to simply be an aggregation mechanism dominated by A-list bloggers, or it may turn out to be a place where you can track and chat with your friends. They will do best if they can make their site a place you visit every day, or even many times per day—will you replace your feed reader (and FaceBook and Twitter client and …) with FriendFeed? The service definitely has the potential to be very popular, especially if they improve their integration with data sources. It will be interesting to see what happens; for now, you can follow some of my activities on my friendfeed.