Michael Arrington writes this morning about the fast growing aggregator service called Friendfeed. After launch, just one month ago the ex-Google founders already see a steady climb of users. Most likely because a number of power users like Robert Scoble and Michael himself have joined the service and brought along their network of tech followers.
I joined Friendfeed too a few weeks ago (here) and was surprised to see its simplicity. Friendfeed allows you to import news or messages left behind by your friends. But it aggregates them(using RSS) from all kinds of different sites. Friendfeed currently allows you to import feeds from some 28 sites like Twitter, Jaiku, Digg, Google Reader, Delicious, StumbeUpon, Flickr, Youtube. Friendfeed also allows you to react or comment to things shared on other sites. So if Robert Scoble posts a Twitter and I am subscribed to his Friendfeed, then I can comment his Twitter inside Friendfeed. Unfortunately the comment doesn’t appear on Twitter, only on Friendfeed.
And that is probably precisely why I don’t use Friendfeed as often as I use Twitter for example. While it does a great job aggregating all the feeds for me into one place, it is quickly becoming a destination site. And honestly, that is so web 2.0.
I hate it when I need to go to my Friendfeed site to view all the feeds and comment on them. It sucks that my comments or ratings don’t leave Friendfeed but remain on that portal, only to be seen by those that are currently logged into the same site. And that makes Friendfeed provide us with great aggregating functionality in an old-fashioned web 2.0 destination site.
It makes me feel locked-in, puts up walls around me. Friendfeed is the most hypocritical of them all, literally feeding off the success of other sites (just look at Michael Arrington stabbing at Twitter). But when it gets interesting, when I get my chance to interact with something I discovered on Friendfeed, I don’t get to leave the Friendfeed walled garden.
So excuse me if I’m not nearly as enthusiastic as all the first mover bloggers that have written positive articles on the service. Yes, it’s a great aggregator fo feeds. Yes, it is incredibly easy to use, uncluttered, and fortunately ad free.
But they have missed the opportunity to create something unique, something that goes beyond web 2.0 thinking. They have missed the opportunity to make Friendfeed a service centered around its users, instead of centered around their own portal and database. And with the new search functionality added, they are locking in users even more to the Friendfeed site. And that is too bad. It could have been a user-centric web 3.x service. Instead they stopped at old fashioned web 2.0.
The crazy thing about that is that if everyone is finally attracted to Friendfeed and locked into their service, there will be nothing left to aggregate from other places. Robert Scoble asks himself how many services we actually need. Well, with Friendfeed we don’t need any other right? Everyone loses, and that is too bad. So follow me on Friendfeed if you like. But for interaction, I’ll will probably also hang around other places, for example at my Twitter account 😉