Friendfeed is on TechMeme again. This time we hear from Hugh Hutch Carpenter that some early adopters are moving towards Friendfeed now. According to Hugh Hutch people are moving away from the social services they have been using towards Friendfeed. While the compete traffic graph does show an increase in traffic for Friendfeed, Steven Hodson nails it by saying that Friendfeed cannot exist without these other services. Besides the possibility to enter text and links or comments into Friendfeed it really can only exist because people are creating content elsewhere feeding it into Friendfeed.
Friendfeed is almost like a virus in that sense, it feeds off other services and aggregates it all into one place. While most bloggers are walking away with the service (didn’t we do that with Twitter too when that came out?), I just can’t get all that warm about the service. I mean, I like it and use it, but I can easily manage without it too. Friendfeed does a great job aggregating feeds into one place. But that isn’t the thing I like about it. I like the commenting system best. Importing feeds into Friendfeed solves a technical puzzle. But being able to comment on the aggregated stuff makes Friendfeed interactive, and therefore useful.
But I still wouldn’t trade Friendfeed for anything else at this point. To me it is just another service I use. It isn’t the one service that binds them all. No way. Let me give you a few reasons why Friendfeed isn’t my favorite service (yet).
My friends aren’t on Friendfeed
Say that again? My friends aren’t on Friendfeed. Right now Friendfeed is a tech elite’s aggregator. It is crowded with early adopters, A-list bloggers (andB- and C- too probably), tech people etc. I follow these people too, just as they follow me. But they aren’t my friends. They are peers, interesting people, experts, whatever. But my friends aren’t there. Friendfeed at best could be an alternative for an aggregator like TechMeme. A better one too since it allows interaction with the commenting system it provides.
Friendfeed is an echo chamber of tech stuff we already know
I looked at the statistics a few weeks ago (friendfeedstat seems to be down, can’t get an update now) and found that the 5 most used feeds were Twitter, Blogs, Google Reader, Tumblr, and youTube. Twitter winning the contest with 51% at the time. So Friendfeed aggregates over 50% Twitter and after that mostly blogs. I realise that aggregation in itself doesn’t produce “new” content. But let’s face it. These feeds are mostly tech people’s feeds. Friendfeed lets us techies sift through the enormous amounts of tech news by letting others (the people we follow) do some of the sifting for us. That is probably why Robert Scoble likes Friendfeed so much. He has taken on more content feeds tan any human can possibily process, so he uses Friendfeed and the friends he follows to do that for him. Which is fine of course, but it is just convenience. It’s stuff we already know or could find on other services.
Friendfeed, or any aggregator for that matter, doesn’t aggregate important stuff, it aggregates everything
In a previous post I said I didn’t like Friendfeed as much as I wanted because it lacks intent. I have gotten a lot of replies on that. People either strongly agreed or disagreed. If Friendfeed allows us to share entire feeds (and many of them) without effort, then we are bound to share stuff that isn’t always interesting or important. We might even forget we are sharing it on Friendfeed after a while. It creates a situation where we do not always use intent to share. And when we share because we can, not because we meant to, the shared stuff becomes less valuable. It is precisely for this reason that the Friendfeed team is now working hard on filtering methods. Since everything is shared, users will quickly need filtering techniques to start finding the stuff that really matters to them. The power of Friendfeed (aggregation) quickly becomes it’s weak point (noise).
Friendfeed doesn’t allow intentional sharing to just a few
What is more valuable to you. A guy named Alexander that creates a Friendfeed entry “Alexander just posted five new images on Flickr”, or your best friend Alexander e-mailing you “Hey dude, here are the pictures of the party last night, what do you think?”. The entries both point to the same 5 pictures. But these pictures will probably have no value to anyone that hasn’t been at the party with Alexander. They do however provide value to Alexander’s best friend. The main reason for this is that Alexander used intent to share this. He didn’t share it with anyone that wanted to hear anything form him. He specifically sent it to his best friend, because he knew that sharing them would provide them both value. I find that the value of aggregation is highly overestimated. It isn’t aggregation what makes things valuable. It is the intentional sharing, often to one or a few people.
Friendfeed is a web 2.0 destination
Despite it’s simple and Google-like appearance, Friendfeed is just another web 2.0 destination site. It forces me to register, to leave a profile behind, to go to the Friendfeed portal and get the stuff I registered for, instead of it coming to me. Hugh Carpenter talks about the sharp increase in traffic to Friendfeed, and he uses that as an indication of its early adopter popularity. The battle for traffic, the destination thinking, it most often leads to the web 2.0 freemium business model. Getting something for free makes the service provider leverage network value, instead of user value. It opens up the door for unwanted advertisement as a compensation for free. The web 2.0 freemium business model doesn’t set us free, it locks us in. I’d rather have a business model that leverages user value, but such a business model would ave to compete with the freemium model, and that isn’t easy. But it will be the next frontier after web 2.0.
I’ll be using Friendfeed, just as I use other services. It’s a nice service, but I doubt it will ever become mainstream in its current form. Most likely it will compete with services like TechMeme for the most important aggregation source of tech news.