Why Facebook Wants FriendFeed

52 thoughts on “Why Facebook Wants FriendFeed”

  1. Prima facie, good buy for Friendfeed (and also for its 4 founders) and also not to mention Facebook who has a different way (if at all) to cut away Twitter – but looking at larger picture, I doubt its good for users like us!

  2. Certainly seems like the talent plays a bit part of acquisition- they got an all-start cast of Google émigré in the deal.

    However, I’d say it has more to do with Facebooks obvious Twitter obsession. They tried to buy Twitter, but couldn’t. So, FriendFeed is the second best thing. They’ve already “borrowed” many of FriendFeeds best features, meaning they probably didn’t *need* to buy the company. It seems like this purchase is almost a public acknowledgment that they’re ready to promote social network syndication to the front and center, rather than hidden (or as an unofficial Facebook app) as it always has been.

    My biggest problem with this acquisition is that it seems to be at odds with a rumor (“Facebook to ‘Undo’ Twitter-like Homepage”) Mashable reported on a few months ago (http://mashable.com/2009/06/12/facebook-homepage-changes/)

    From the article: “Why the change? Well, it turns out a lot of Facebook’s 200 million users aren’t like us – keeping the site open constantly or watching updates stream in real-time through a desktop client like TweetDeck (TweetDeck) or Seesmic Desktop (Seesmic Desktop). In turn, the concern is that these less active users are missing out on a lot of updates from friends, which, means less value from the service.”

    The old news feed algorithm always seemed to be good (almost too good, in a creepy way) at picking out the stuff people would be most interested in. Adding more things to the feed (without filtering the stuff people don’t care about) seems like it would have a Huxley-esque effect on how we use Facebook. The more and more useless stuff, the less likely we’re going to be to wade through it all to find the important things.

  3. its all about the talent but the question on my mind is why did friendfeed decide to sell out? it must be that they feel that they are not going to grow or catch up with twitter or facebook

  4. Om, appreciate the depth. In military strategy, FF became a strategic multi dimension choke point. FF is a vantage point where you control the throughfare and visibility of several armies. Tweetdeck and Seesmic, now brizzly attempt the same.

    Tweetdeck’s choke point choked out tr.I’m and their twitter app.

    Imagine if google stuck their flag in this terrain before fb.

    1. Thanks – chokepoint is the right analogy.

      I think many are missing the point here — this is all about Google and nothing else.
      I think twitter is not as big a problem for Facebook as we in Silicon Valley would like to think. In many ways, I think Facebook is the only legitimate competitor to Google as of now.

  5. Great analysis. I agree that the web giants are jockeying ahead of a greater shift in user behavior, but I’m not so convinced this is a material acquisition strategically. Isn’t FF just a mashup of a handful of public APIs?

  6. Real time search is definitely an incredibly functional tool. A good website in this space is http://www.gethighnote.com, which has search as well as track and share. It’s results are pretty useful and the track has helped me find some pretty cool information that might otherwise get lost.

  7. Om

    You talk about the “information overload” and the “problem of plenty”. You state that “the current seek-search-consume popularized by Google will eventually hit its outer limits — and when that happens, Facebook wants to step in and take the leadership baton”. OK fine I get all that.

    “Facebook has course-corrected”? How exactly does acquiring a company that only delivers more real time junk (adding to the problem of plenty) help facebook take over the leadership position. Its not like they bought a better search solution. Even if they did, Real Time search of “plenty of junk” only produces junk. I think you are missing the analysis component completely. The why and the how of why FB will dominate remains unanswered.

    Deepak

    1. Deepak

      I think you have to look at what FF brings to Facebook: ability to aggregate information and create conversations in real time around certain “clusters” – whether those clusters are people, groups, or say Photos. Now Facebook has the ability to better create those clusters because it has so much of our personal data.

      Together, these two companies can now offer information (in real time) that is serendipitous. I don’t know if you remember the old News Feed on FB. It would surface information the system deemed was good for you. It was actually pretty good system, except it wasn’t real time and was too slow. The two teams together can make some interesting things happen.

      Why FB would dominate: just look at the amount of shit people are feeding into it. And all of it is dark to the Google and other web. It is all organized around relationships. It is very different. At 250 million, FB already dominates and is changing the user behavior. It is making it important to think less of search.

      Hope that explains it.

      1. Some questions that come to mind with regard to Facebook acquiring Friendfeed

        1. Friendfeed is used more as a “real time” aggregation service . Facebook also has some form of aggregation. But searching this aggregated content and in recent time file sharing etc allowed people to find topics of interest. How would Facebook policies evolve to allow such search of aggregated content?

        2. Will this acquisition mean that seemingly more content will be gated or does it mean that facebook will open up more ?

  8. I think there are two facets that are overlooked, public and private data.

    Facebook allows (if users want) a generous amount of information and data to be public, but it isn’t that efficient, not in the scope or range of FF.

    This gives them a ton of options to re-appropriate data (think about it every blog platform, twitter, photo sharing) from various platforms that FF interacts with seamlessly already, with the hope that the team backed with facebooks staff and funding can help them scale that.

    Whether its public or private, how it looks, style etc, will then be the users choice, the key is that facebook is still the conduit. I think at that point, yes, this is very specifically a google acquisition, however there are a lot of hoops to jump through to get there, in the meantime its a variety of talent, data, existing platforms, and the potential to jump over an upcoming, inevitable user plateau by being the creation/publishing conduit for most of the social web’s data.

  9. Om,

    Great post and analysis. We are http://www.gist.com totally agree with your premise, in that, as the “plenty” continues you need some form(s) of dynamic aggregation and filtering. In the case of FF, it was “personal feeds (content by me)” and friends that filtered the web. This is a logical extension for FB with their real-time activity and built in friend network. However, I do agree with Deepak in that the FF filters may not aide that much for FB as they are already “friend based”.

    We at Gist are taking a slightly different tack and trying to aggregate/filter content (email, personal content, news…) through your “professional” network of people and companies, but we focus on a system that can determine who are the most “important” of these people and companies automagically, like a FF for business, but without all the “subscribe, follow, friend, invite…” nonsense and one that brings the most important stuff to the top of the heap.

    It remains to be seen what additional tools people will devise to aggregate, combine, filter…but it is true that the “old” search/find model will need some serious revamping.

  10. Om, the ‘problem of plenty’ is in fact the ‘Paradox of Plenty’ idea – a theory in 21st century public diplomacy:

    “Technological advances have led to a dramatic reduction in the cost of processing and transmitting information. The result is an explosion of information, one that has produced a “paradox of plenty.”
    Plenty of information leads to scarcity — of attention. When people are overwhelmed with the volume of information confronting them, they have difficulty discerning what to focus on. ”

    (http://www.theglobalist.com/StoryId.aspx?StoryId=3885 )

    So the power is no longer information, but rather attention. This is the same theory that came to mind when first discussing the challenge of information overload a long time ago- we’re bombarded with infinite pieces of content from our growing amounts of RSS and social streams all competing for attention and it’s not humanly impossible to sift through and find the hidden items that really matter. So we end up consuming irrelevant content (overwhelming causes impaired judgment) or not consuming at all due to frustration…

  11. This has become an ongoing process where bigger corporations buy smaller ones and become even bigger. We just turn out to say, “Wow!”. What makes me feel intimidated is that the whole world is going toward having a bunch of gigantic providers.

    As we are in need of what they provide, I don’t know what may come out of this when for any reason the service or product isn’t available as before. We won’t interact with the local providers anymore. We deal with monstrous corporations.

    I prefer to see 1000 music sellers instead of ONE big one who decides for me. Hasn’t it ever happen to you to have such feeling before?

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