FriendFeed is now In a Relationship with Facebook

In a move that surprised many in the tech world, Facebook and FriendFeed today announced that FriendFeed has been acquired by Facebook. This announcement came as a surprise to those who see FriendFeed as an annoying, yet open approach to the web whereas Facebook has a history of being a walled garden, often only opening up their data streams in limited or crippled fashions.

More surprisingly, the acquisition was something like Sixth Sense where you watched the movie trying to figure out what the ending would be just to be totally blindsided as the credits rolled. Yeah, it was that sort of satisfactory “ah, you got me” moment.

friendfeed-facebookI have had a torrid relationship with FriendFeed culminating with a termination of my account, causing much angst and name-calling from the puppets who have pushed FriendFeed as the only way to have legitimate conversations on the web. From my perspective, and others, it was a noisy, troll-filled social platform that, though having good technical features like real time feeds, also provided an almost cliché approach to communication.

Where the web has become increasingly fragmented and dispersed, fans of FriendFeed often touted it’s aggregation platform as the end of disbursement, a concept that I disagree with. Such end of disbursement also marks an end to competition, if allowed, and a navel-gazing mentality that assumes nothing can be better. Competition in the market place is good, and I chose Twitter.

What this means to consumers is unknown yet. Facebook has a historic closed stance and, though opening up certain APIs such as Facebook Connect, and allowing developers to develop applications for Facebook, it still stands as a relatively closed system. In order to really engage with Facebook, you really have to be using Facebook itself or the mobile apps built for Facebook.

FriendFeed has a robust API that developers can access to distribute or repurpose the content within. It has failed in many ways by not providing a really great application ecosystem, but on paper, it is much more robust of an open system than Facebook.

Facebook has certainly taken pages from the FriendFeed book, however, making their newsfeeds real time, and integrating their “Like” feature. However, it still is not as quick or reliable, much less intuitive for the user.

In an ideal world, Facebook takes almost all of the real time, and “Group” functionality of FriendFeed and integrates it into Facebook. Lose the walled garden, and keep the API open for developers. Time will tell, however, as these two companies figure out how to be “In a Relationship” with each other.

More on this acquisition from other sources:

The [Non] Value of Friendfeed

Over the past year or so, I’ve fiddled around on Friendfeed. Sometimes actively, sometimes passively. The notion of aggregating all social content into a single place is an enticing value add to anyone who spends time on multiple services across the internet.

As I’ve thought about the value of Friendfeed and it’s potential to be a market disruptor, I’ve come to realize it’s not. I operate much like other “non personal” brands do. I monitor reputation, mentions, links and traffic. I make decisions based on what will help me get more business for my company and increase key metrics of success. As a result, the value I find in Friendfeed, as a technology platform, is limited.

Twitter is a highly valuable tool for me, mostly because the mobile integration is highly important and integral to the service. Twitter was built to be a mobile tool. While there are services that will allow Friendfeed to be used via mobile (and by mobile, I do not mean iPhone), it was not built with mobile as a key cornerstone. As such, it does not behave in a way that is friendly to me as a mobile professional.

As a measure of mentions, however, Friendfeed shines beyond other aspects of it. Though there is not a significant marketshare of people using Friendfeed, thus making even it’s shiningest feature somewhat dim, it is built on the concept of aggregation and so having search feeds and other monitoring mechanisms on Friendfeed is hugely valuable for businesses.

Where Friendfeed breaks down is its community. Though many (perhaps most) of Friendfeed users who are active are okay, there has been a much larger proportion of people, as compared to other platforms, that use the platform for nothing more than troll behavior. They disagree just to disagree. They argue just to argue. They call names just to call names. Hardly something that is productive for a business to be involved in and as an early adopter of technologies, I decided to call it quits.

Comedy ensued.

In fact, not only did comedy ensue, but my point of trollish behavior was demonstrated on numerous occasions in the epic length thread.

Robert Scoble, perhaps the most vocal critic of me, accurately figured that I was giving a big middle finger to the community. He is correct in that I was sending a message to Friendfeed that, “If you want to be valuable outside of a very small early adopter, tech-heavy community, you need to find a way to be valuable to those people on the outside of “the group”. Right now, that value is missing.

At this time, I cannot suggest to a major media organization that they should use Friendfeed for anything other than monitoring. I cannot suggest that a small business can have productive dialogue with customers via Friendfeed. I just can’t.

Certainly, Friendfeed has done a lot in recent months to enhance the experience with a new look and feel, real time commenting, etc. But they haven’t done enough. At some point, Friendfeed needs to show community value to businesses if they are going to be successful.

I am tremendously grateful for the kind words and the pleas to not leave Friendfeed. Truly, I did not know I had the kind of impact that some have suggested. Thus, I’ll give it a week. I’ll decide next week if I want to kill Friendfeed or not. If I have to make the decision today, I’ll leave. But if it’s truly valuable for all those people to keep me around, then prove it. If you’re okay with the community being the way it is, then that’s fine. Best of luck to you and I’ll see you around the web. However, if my presence is that important, then show me value. Don’t make me find value. Show it to me. I’m willing to be wooed back.

But right now, I don’t see the benefit of investing time and energy in a platform that has little ROI for me and my business.