A small update: I just saw a post of Justin Smith (Inside Facebook) interviewing Bret Taylor (co-founder of Friendfeed) about the difference between the Facebook and Friendfeed newsfeed. I don’t usually add links afterwards, but this one fits really well. I guess they hadn’t read this post yet ;-)
A few days ago I wrote a post in which I explained that I wasn’t as enthousiastic as most bloggers seem to be about the social network aggregator Friendfeed. My reason for this is simple. If actions of users are shared with others without intent, that is the person performing the action is intentionally sharing, the content that gets shared is usually less valueable.
I have been thinking about that some more the past few days and decided to digg into this a little deeper. I’ll show you some statistics about Friendfeed in a minute, but first some Facebook.
Today I went to my Facebook profile (which I rarely use, but that is the topic of yet another post), and looked at my “newsfeed” there. Here is an example of a typical newsfeed of mine (I erased personal details from friends).
I just found out from a computer, not from my friends, that someone is playing a game, someone added another application, someone changed a profile picture, etc. etc. I also get informed by Facebook about some top networks I should be on. None of these items were intentionally shared by my friends and in my personal opinion none of the items provide me any value. Is this because I have the wrong friends. I doubt it. The problem for me is that the wrong information is shared. Social networks aren’t interesting because I can track down every (mostly dull) action a friend is taking. Social networks are interesting because they should allow people to interact. That is, to intentionally reach out to each other to share stuff, communicate, play, have fun etc. That is what makes it social. What we see here is an Orwellian report about activities that the actor doesn’t even know it is being shared, and to me as a receiver it is of no interest. It’s Big Brother watching you, but it doesn’t provide anyone value. Not even the Big briother (in this case Facebook). They are data hoggers, and collect all these actions to get a grip on user profiles and social graphs. For advertisement purposes. Well, it’s great to know that my friend plays Scrabble. I can see the advertisers getting all excited about that already. I’m not interested to read “Alexander went to Amazon to buy book X”. I’m interested in “He John, I just bought book X. It’s about Y and I am sure you would like it too”. The first one is non-intentional, the second one is a conscious act of sharing which adds way more value.
Back to Friendfeed. I looked at some statistics about Friendfeed usage. What are the top feeds being shared on Friendfeed, according to Friendfeed stat?
- Google Reader
The actual order can’t be determined right now due to some limitations in the Google App Engine on which Friendfeed stats is build, but Twitter seems to take the lead by more than 50%. Here are a few items that surprisingly aren’t shared very often:
- Friendfeed ?
- Picasa web albums
- Flickr (it’s in the top ten, but still pretty low in my opinion)
I looked up a few Friendfeed “power users”. Robert Scoble manages to produce 96% input from Twitter and 4% from his blog. Louis Gray produces 71% input from Google reader, 14% Twitter and 7% Flickr. Steve Hodson produces 50% from his blog, 33%(!) from Disqus, and 17% from Twitter.
What can we learn from this by no means statistical sound analysis? Friendfeed is mostly an echo chamber of stuff we already have and know elsewhere. The stuff that gets shared most is Twitter, and right after that the blogs people post and share. I can easily find examples of a blog post being shared by 5-10 different people, thus producing the echo I’m talking about.In my previous post some folks noted that they liked being able to comment stuff on Friendfeed. I couldn’t find statistics on that yet (I hope that will get implemented soon). But the reason why people like that is pretty obvious. Social anything is about interaction. It is what makes us all tick. Not the sharing, but the possibility to communicate.
I said earlier that the stuff we all produce in Friendfeed is less valuable because there is no intent or conscious act when things get shared. Looking at the statistics above I now believe that Friendfeed is nothing more than a techie bloggers echo chamber. It could vastly be improved if either Friendfeed or some API builder would produce a page with statistics about what is being shared most right now. Instead of seaing all the duplicate shares I would like to see that the tech community is sharing a specific post N times. The same thing goes for comments. Which shared items get the most comments. That will show us what people are talking about most. With these additions Friendfeed might replace TechMeme as it not only shows the important blog posts, but also allows us to interact on them. It will certainly become a powerful traffic driver for bloggers. These things don’t make Friendfeed less useful (I will be using it sometimes), it just means that the branding of Friendfeed should be changed.
But at the same time I believe that in its current form Friendfeed will not penetrate the consumer (or non-tech) market successfully. People aren’t really interested in the non-conscious, non-intentional sharing of actions. Who cares? Just look at the stuff Facebook produces in its newsfeed. It might have been be called novel when it first arrived, but it sucks. People want to interact. And Friendfeed in its current form produces way too much non-valuable stuff for consumers to be able to interact. That’s probably why Twitter is so popular, even on Friendfeed ;-)
I’m interested in hearing what you think about this. Is Friendfeed just a bloggers wet dream or not? Does it provide you value, even if most of the stuff that gets shared is non-intentional? Let me knwo what you think about all of this.