My Thoughts on the Current State of FriendFeed

Image courtesy of Louis Gray
ff_prayIts now been well over 24 hours since the initial shock that FriendFeed has been acquired by Facebook. I’ve been watching all the reactions originating both by the coverage surrounding the deal as well as the user community on the FriendFeed site itself. It’s been a pretty surreal two days that have included a huge bag of reactions and emotions across the web. Here are my current thoughts on the situation.

I first joined FriendFeed in October of 2007 just weeks after they launched in private beta. I remember after my first visit not being very impressed with their initial release and quickly dismissing it as another one of the many new Lifestreaming services to launch at that time that didn’t really bring anything new to the table. That changed over just a few short months after and when I decided to create the Lifestreaming services comparison matrix in Feb of 2008 (I really need to update this) it had risen to become the most feature rich service out there.

It was also around this time that I started to become very active on the service. FriendFeed chose to pave a new path beyond solely being a Lifestreaming service. They quickly became a differentiating service when they decided to go down the SocialStream path and focus on creating conversations around the items that made up people’s Lifestreams. They did this by launching two features that would become their defining ones to achieve this. First they created a very quick and simple way to allow people to create comments on items. Then they changed the logic of just displaying a reverse chronological stream of items by introducing the “like” feature. As users of the service would click on the like button (or comment on them), that item would re-appear withing peoples streams. These two features (which were both subsequently copied and implemented by Facebook) are what propelled them to become a very powerful conversational platform that I feel has to this day not been matched in another service.


So fast forward to yesterday. I go to lunch and when I return saw a tweet (don’t rem from who) that said FriendFeed was acquired by Facebook. So the first thing I do is check the calendar and make sure it wasn’t 4/1 and then quickly start searching for more info. It didn’t take long to verify the news. I was shocked. My mind started to wander about what this would mean for the FriendFeed sites’ future and I immediately didn’t feel it would be good. I started to feel a bit numb. I had never invested the amount of time and passion in a web service as I have with FriendFeed. For me it has been the human component and friendships I have made on the the service that has made it so great. FriendFeed lowered the barrier of communication so as to make it easy to interact with many of the web’s technorati. It was FriendFeed that provided me the ability to trade dialog and befriend them along with so many other great people in a way that I haven’t been able to anywhere else. The thought of this going away has definitely caused some anguish.

The future of FriendFeed is still uncertain but from a telling paragraph in the interview by TechCrunch as well as the post over at Inquisitr, it would appear that the chances of the site continuing are slim. Yesterday Paul Bucheit stated that he’d do the best he can to ensure that the community is treated right and I believe he will. But he also acknowledged his personal limitations in stating that he can’t make any promises on other’s behalf. I pointed out in Paul’s thread a few things that I’d like to see. This included the ability to export our data as well as a tool to import our friends to Facebook. I also voiced my concern regarding the state of their in-house short url serviced used for links posted through the service. No word yet on any of these.


So today after much of the raw emotion started to subside and the reality of the situation started to settle in people on FriendFeed started talking about alternatives as well as other options. ReadWriteWeb did a fantastic job today on this topic. First Sarah Perez identified as a possible new destination, then Marshall Kirkpatrick writes an eye-opening piece on whether now is the time for the creation of a distributed social network.

Both of these were big topics on FriendFeed today. Many started talking about and trying out Streamy. Apparently so many users started testing the service that Ben Parr discussed that it buckled for a little while under the pressure. I like what Streamy has done recently to re-invent itself but they have a difficult decision to make regarding whether to tweak their service in hopes of acommodating the potential FriendFeed user base or continue with their planned initiative prior to today’s limelight. I’m friends with Don Mosites who is one of their founders and I will no doubt be talking to him about this as well as previous features I’ve been pushing him to implement which aren’t related to FriendFeed.

I love the idea put out by Marshall regarding a distributed social network but feel that the barriers to entry for such a service are pretty high. Activity Streams, DiSO, and Data Portability are all fine initiatives but they have been plodding along at a slow pace and I don’t believe that they are being held back by technical issues but  by beauracratic business obstacles instead which are much harder to overcome. There seems to be some headway being made however from what I’ve read recently about them and perhaps the FriendFeed situation will provide some help to further these along. One other interesting possibility was suggested by Mark Rizzn in a post where he posits whether WordPress could create an alternative replacement as well.

On FriendFeed there have also been conversations about building an open distributed service as well. I have even joined these conversations and pointed them to the collection of scripts and other open source Lifestreaming tools that I have found over the last 2 years, but I don’t think that most of the FriendFeed users will wait for this to come to fruition and will likely find a new place to call home before this could become a reality.

Many podcasters scrambled yesterday to record impromptu shows surrounding the FriendFeed acquisition. I don’t recall any other site purchases ever causing such a large amount of people to want to react so quickly. One of the best ones I heard was the Social Geeks Podcast which included Louis Gray, Wayne Sutton, Jeff Smith, Corvida, Sarah Perez, and Chris Miller (aka IdoNotes) all of whom are very active FriendFeed users so their thoughts and perspective were especially enlightening. One things that I had been thinking about personally and had my own thoughts on was why did FriendFeed sell? They repeatedly stated that they had no interest in selling or cashing out whenever they were interviewed and I believed that. I think Louis nailed it on this podcast (covered starting at 28:40) when he stated that the writing was on the wall with both the eminent release of Google Wave along with the continual copycat advancements made by Facebook. So it would appear that the sale was more due to concerns with their viability in the future and wanting to make a successful exit while they were still on top.

Dave Winer and Marshall Kirkpatrick also recorded their Bad Har Day podcast where they took in calls to discuss people’s reactions. Dave also wrote a very interesting post spurred by the podcast here. Lastly the fan created FFundercats podcast (not online yet) recorded their very emotional reactions to the news and were also joined by Louis Gray.


One thing I’m pretty happy about is the fact that I chose to use the excellent WordPress Lifestream plugin (also the author is working on a new Lifestreaming service to launch soon at for my personal Lifestream on my blog. By using this plugin I store all of my Lifestream data in my WordPress database ensuring that I own and don’t lose any of that data. And speaking of data, I reached out to Rob May who is the founder of Lifestream Backup to find out if they currently supported FriendFeed. He told me that they currently didn’t but had been getting a large number of requests to do so. So today he wrote a post looking to see how strong the interest is and to see if it would move to the top of the feature priority list.

Since I’m on the topic of blogs, I’ve also been paying attention to Chris Saad and his recent post on Blogs are Back is very interesting. The advancement in so many tools including Echo pose another strong possibility that many people may consider reverting back to their blogs and utilizing the power of these tools for the conversation.


So where do I stand? Well FriendFeed is still up and running and chances are that I’ll continue to use the service until the last server is shut down. That being said, I am definitely keeping my eyes open for other possible options but at this point in a very strange way I almost feel relieved and ready to submit to the almighty Facebook primarily because its been challenging having to participate on an extra service and being able to consolidate that makes my workflow much easier. I know crazy talk and I might change my mind tomorrow but I do feel that way a bit right now. The one wildcard for me at this point that I’m really looking forward to is Google Wave. The buzz around it seems amazing, and I’m impressed by what I’ve been able to see. If anyone can get me an early invite please send it over as I’d like to see what all the fuss is about and see if it lives up to the hype.

33 thoughts on “My Thoughts on the Current State of FriendFeed”

  1. I admit I was pretty unhappy when I heard about Facebook buying FriendFeed. Actually, I'm still not that happy about it.

    But then I start thinking about maybe getting FriendFeed features on Facebook, where everyone in my life actually plays, and I get a little giddy. I'd like to finally be able to have a good service with good features, and have everyone use it.

    Also, I wonder about everyone going back to blogs. I feel like it's a step back from lifestreaming. Blogs have their purpose. Status updates have their purpose. And I feel like lifestreaming has it's own purpose.

    I don't want to leave FriendFeed, but I'm beginning to try to figure out my place in Facebook. If Facebook is where they're going, I may have to go with them. Simply because everyone I know is on Facebook, even if I generally dislike the service. It would have to be another really good site like FriendFeed to get me to start over again.

    And I've thought about self-hosting my lifestream, but I feel like that it would take up so much space on my domain. And for what? So, I can have it all? I'd rather it be pushed out to people so they can read it and comment. And they're more likely to do that on a site that everyone else is on. That was the beauty of FriendFeed. And it'll really be missed.

  2. I think we haven't heard the last from FriendFeed. Let's pretend they just throw as it is now into a tab on Facebook and change nothing, except that you have to login to Facebook to get there? Who knows how this plays out?

    And think about this — Forget about the lifestream for a second, even on this blog.

    In Paul Buchheit, Facebook gets the founder of GMail and Adsense. Where does Facebook arguably need the most help? Messaging and getting relevant ads. Even if he doesn't touch lifestreaming and aggregation again, he will make a serious impact to that network.

    Do I feel wonderful and happy about the news? Not yet. I care too darn much about it, and even being pragmatic isn't helping. But I think this will end up a lot better than many are speculating.

  3. I agree that Blogs, a social network, status updates, and Lifestreaming all have their place and I'm not condoning ditching any of them. I don't think creating a separate page with a Lifestream is intrusive at all. It's there if anybody wants to take a look and I also think I point to a good way to have it archive your data as well. I think you can have a local Lifestream as well as broadcast it to another service at the same time without any penalty which is what I've always done.

  4. As I stated I have confidence in Paul and the FriendFeed team doing everything they can to ensure a smooth transition for the community. Even putting aside Lifestreaming, I can't get excited about Paul helping Facebook improve messaging and relevant ads…sorry.

    What I do hope he helps them with is real-time technologies like search and commenting as well as improving the experience on Facebook to allow it to be customized to bring all the things we love about FriendFeed to their service.

  5. At last some decent analysis !

    Friendfeed was nichey. It was going nowhere IMHO.

    I paid nothing for FriendFeed and it was a great product with some genuine innovation. I don't feel betrayed. Friendfeed owes me nothing.

    Facebook bought the brains behind FriendFeed (not FriendFeed).

    FriendFeed will die – it's just a matter of when.

    Most staggering to me is all these intelligent people who entrusted their 'data' to FriendFeed without even considering 'What if…' and now spotaneously combust when forced to contemplate 'How do I get my data out'. Bizarre.

  6. My gut feeling is that FriendFeed is done. Facebook will inherit the best ideas and features and fold them into their site. I think it's better that way since I believe that just about everyone who was on FriendFeed is on Facebook anyway. I also think that the FriendFeed leadership sold because they had to. FriendFeed didn't appear to have any revenue generating possibilities. And they've been getting squeezed by both Google (via recent Google Reader enhancements) and Facebook in terms of functionality. Now that the team is with Facebook they can focus on developing their ideas without having to worry about competing with Google.

  7. I would welcome the ability to import friends but Facebook seriously needs to introduce long polling!

    Mainly because I would miss out on the majority of the good content because Facebook feels that someone being single is a story that warrants a lot of exposure on the site!

  8. So here's a question for ya. For those of us that use FF to embed our lifestream in our website, what alternate service would you recommend? Perhaps something with better embed options?

  9. Thanks for the analysis of Friendfeed and alternatives.

    I've signed up for Streamy as an experiment, because none of us know if Friendfeed will continue on its current trajectory, or be modified as part of Facebook.

    I took a quick look at the Lifestream plug-in for WordPress, and may have to revisit that. I've been doing things like feeding Friendfeed onto my blogs at and , but perhaps a more consolidated approach is appropriate. I like the community aspects of Friendfeed, and was trying to surface that community onto my personal web pages, but perhaps my readers are less interested in community and more in me individually, if they're on my blog.

    (I have a technical side mystery on this response. I use Cocomments and normally get the comment pane framed with Cocomment, but that's not happening here. I signed in with Disqus, but notice that I haven't used that in quite some time. Perhaps there's an incompatibility between the two).

  10. Nice post Mark. I have never really gotten into FriendFeed but completely understood the service and liked what it included. I may be in the minority, but I really like this news. I'm not a fan of Facebook since it went public, mainly because of things like filling my news feed with garbage like relationship status, quizes, favorite things, mafia wars, etc. But Facebook knows one thing and that's to stay relevant, they need to constantly innovate. And that's the one thing that FriendFeed was stellar at. Let's be honest, Facebook hasn't innovated in a while. Even Facebook Connect (arguably the best product they've introduced) wasn't anything new, just a different approach. Now they have people that can take Facebook to the next level, and that's exciting.

    It is sad to see such a nice product essentially die, but sometimes this happens. Also though like to see another service come up and take FF's place. There is merit in my opinion in keeping some people out of my Facebook social graph, but none the less want to be connected in some fashion…that's just me.

  11. I don't see what everyone does about Google Wave. It's good for small group situations but it doesn't scale. Doesn't make sense economically for big blogs. For example you have a site like Techcrunch. They would send a Wave to a set of their subscribers and their website would have the same Wave functionality enabled. Big wow. So their comment section becomes more chat based. The spammers and/or dumb commenters get even more vociferous. The thoughtful comment gets lost in the constant chat format. Other features like revision control and plug-ins, while nice, don't impact the average user. And the fact that it's open source means that none of the players will change – FB/Myspace will incorporate Wave into their sites.

    On another note, I agree with other commenters. Everyone on FF is on Facebook. They (a minority) just have different social networks relative to each site. As long as FB allows you to separate your networks, everything will remain the same.

  12. I found this via your Facebook share, incidentally.

    If I were still using an online pseudonym, I would be very concerned about my future. However, my decision to use my real name online, coupled with a subsequent decision to join Facebook (I had previously resisted because of their “no aliases” rule), make me more comfortable with the concept of using the future improved Facebook as a conversational tool.

    One interesting aspect of all of this is the emotional reaction to the acquisition – our feelings of shock, betrayal, etc. I'll share more about that in a future post at later today.

  13. traeblain, Facebook's incorporation of comments and likes indicates that they have performed a bit of innovation. Perhaps the incoming Facebook employees can help them in this regard, although I suspect it's wishful thinking that Facebook will keep the FriendFeed team intact as “Facebook R&D” or whatever.

  14. I disagree, Facebook's incorporation of comments and likes is an almost direct copy of FriendFeed's application. I would have said that the similarity was simply coincidence, but the reports of FF being courted by Facebook for the past 2 years tells me that Facebook's developers were watching what FF was doing and copied the best features.

    I agree that it would be awesome if FF's talent was kept intact as Facebook R&D and was given the freedom to innovate keeping Facebook fresh. Thanks for the reply!

  15. Well in my post you see that I'm using a WordPress plugin to self-host my Lifestream. This also is storing all my data in my own database. It's nice and simple to use an external service to embed your Lifestream, but ultimately the data still lives on their servers so you run the risk of losing it all in the future.

  16. I look forward to reading your post John. There are many different aspects to this news and people continue to provide new and interesting perspectives.

  17. Interesting thoughts on Google Wave but I'll reserve my judgement until I can try it and watch it evolve for a while once released. Also, sure I believe most FriendFeed users had Facebook accounts but my guess is that many weren't very active there and aren't happy about the notion of being forced to communicate on that platform. Plenty of extraneous noise and distractions that muddle the conversations over there in the form of games, quizzes, etc…

  18. Innovation often consists of mimicry. Think of Elvis; in one sense, the only “innovation” of Elvis was his skin color. While I agree that Facebook's implement of comments and likes wasn't original, at least they took the step to incorporate this great idea that they found elsewhere. And to most of Facebook's 200+ million users who had never heard of FriendFeed, the idea truly was an innovation.

  19. Again, I'd have to disagree. Mimicry is the antithesis of innovation. The FF and FB likes and comments are essentially the exact same thing. Taking a current idea and present it or work it in a whole new way can be seen as innovative which is where Elvis's “innovations” more closely fell under. FB's likes and comments are direct copies, and a larger audience does not directly imply innovation (most often it simply means the credit for the idea gets skewed). Because FB had their eye on FF since 07 and status comments/likes have been integrated since then, it's not a hard assumption to make that these thing might not ever come about if FF hadn't done it first. (It is an assumption, but not a difficult assumption to make.)

    If Twitter's newest feature was full media tweets or commented/threaded tweets, everyone would love the idea but there would be no argument over the fact that these features aren't innovations. Facebook doesn't get a pass on this because of it's size/reach, it got this size by it's original innovative ideas but has been very stagnate as of late. FriendFeed's maturation has always been through innovative thought, which includes applying old ideas in a whole new way.

  20. Great level-headed analysis, Mark, and I completely agree. I'm kind of waiting to find another service, and do maintain a small hope that perhaps, perhaps, FF would stay as some kind of 'google labs' of feature. Just as I type this I find it unlikely, tho.

  21. I wish you could try Wave out, because it is really great. It would be nice to be able to invite others to the dev sandbox now so that we can talk to people we already know in order to give it a true test run (instead of just testing our extensions). September isn't too far away though!

  22. Wow, we appreciate the kind words on the podcast. You are right. We actually had more discussion but in order to stay reasonably on time we cut it down to what you heard. I think the initial blast from hearing of the purchase put everyone on guard that has invested time in FriendFeed, yet now that the immediate dust has cleared there is no changes showing as planned.

    I imagine we will slowly see some branding and then integration take place. As well as merging your login information over to pure Facebook.

    Thanks for pointing people over, come and join us sometime on the show!!

  23. I used OrangePascal script with FriendFeed API to show lifestream on my website.

    Socialthing is with AOL. Friendfeed is gone. I am looking for an alternative which can provide at least following services in lifestream.
    1. Twitter
    2. Picasa Web Album

    And JSON API so that i can have life stream on my own website. Any help is appreciated.

  24. Pingback: Die bessere Twitter-Suche: FriendFeed, du lebst ja doch noch »

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