Image courtesy of Flickr user r9M
I’ll start this off by saying that I had high hopes at the beginning of the year for technical advancements in Lifestreaming. I really thought we would see some new innovations from service providers and unique ways of processing data and create better filters to view it. Unfortunately I didn’t see many things this year that took Lifestreaming to the next level. I’d say that Lifestreaming was pretty stagnant and here are some of the reasons I feel that caused it.
Facebook Buys FriendFeed
FriendFeed was the leader in terms having the largest user-base for a standalone Lifestreaming service. I liken the Facebook purchase as it relates to Lifestreaming having been punched in the stomach and having the wind knocked out of it. Besides the many questions about the future of the service, it also marked the halt of the premier services evolution with their rapid new feature releases. The founders have stated that FriendFeed will continue to operate for the foreseeable future. Even though it’s still a great service with a vibrant community, it doesn’t appear to be a platform that will innovate any further in the Lifestreaming space.
Twitter’s Meteoric Rise
Twitter was without question the social media star of 2009. It’s continual upward path from a user adoption perspective has made it quite the force to be reckoned with. Its third party app eco-system and rise as the de-facto communications platform has made all other services take notice. With this snowball rolling down the hill most web services (Flickr, YouTube, uStream to name a few) all launched ways of integrating themselves with Twitter. Because of this cause and effect in play it has seemingly made Twitter become the primary Lifestreaming service for most people even though they weren’t aiming to attain that goal.
Lack of New Services
Both 2007 & 2008 saw an astonishing number of Lifestreaming services being released but 2009 saw the number fall. I’m not sure what to attribute this to. Most of the top services have all been acquired by top tiered players so perhaps startups felt that the appetite for such services has been met or has subsided. Along with that we saw many services shut down or release their code as open source. And even one popular open source Lifestreaming app saw its creator abandon it to join a service. I think it may actually have been that developers started to move on to other bigger things on the horizon such as…
Focus on Mobile and Location Services
It seems like a large number of initiatives this year revolved around the mobile space and vying for what is quickly becoming a platform we’re spending more time on than our laptops or desktops. And since it’s a new territory to be occupied its become a land-rush to try and stake claim quickly. Along with that location based services seem to be the darling of investors and users alike. I’m thinking a lot of developers and startups opted for this space over trying to become yet another Lifestreaming platform.
Improving Underlying Web Architecture
Another major development in 2009 was the race for real-time. We became a web of users with an insatiable need to get our information faster than ever before. Huge resources have gone into making this a reality this year and required quite a bit of heavy lifting which no doubt dried up time to work on other things.
I’m sure there are other reasons but these stood out as the main ones to me. I’m just going to chalk up this year as one of reflection and rebuilding and hope that next year will have in store the innovations that should come with this newly minted architecture and mountain of data we are all injecting into the cloud.
Don’t get me wrong though, it was still a good year for Lifestreaming in other ways. Mainstream adoption continues at a steady pace. AOL has really been a catalyst here with major pushes with the release of AIM with Lifestreaming built-in for their client, web and even iPhone apps. MySpace has also been promoting their release of Activity Streams within its service which aims to be the first Lifestreaming open standards platform which would be a great thing to see spread to other major players. This may become a reality much quicker now that Activity Streams proponents David Recordon has joined Facebook and Joseph Smarr has joined Google. And I’m sure that the FriendFeed team is already working on ways to take Facebook to the next level in terms of Lifestreaming. All of these things bode well for Lifestreaming to continue cementing itself as a function ingrained deep within all of these services.
Another area that could really use help with regards to Lifestreaming is managing the workflow of data across multiple services. We need it to become easier to create content, post it to one service, and then choose what other services we want it to land on with the flexibility from computers and mobile platforms. This is a pretty big problem that hadn’t been addressed to well this year except for one service that really began its rise called Posterous. The service really began taking off this year primarily because of its extreme simplicity and flexibility. It isn’t your traditional Lifestreaming service as I explained earlier in the year, but it does a pretty good job of solving the data workflow problem with their auto-posting functionality. They have really done a great job of extending the auto-posting functionality, most recently to both the bookmarklet with tags support. With the ability to attach anyting to an email and selectively choose where it goes I now use it as my primary way of routing data to various outposts of my Lifestream.
Earlier I mentioned how everyone was working on ways to integrate their services with Twitter. Recently we saw that both WordPress and Tumblr decided to take that one step further. If services continue to open up making it easier to post between them along with adopting an open standard like Activity Streams, we should see the the technical barriers to Lifestreaming dissolve and see much simpler implementations make their way into our hands.
The other area I was also hoping to see progress made is in the way we consume the huge amount of data being created by everyone’s Lifestreams. Sadly this is another area that didn’t improve in 2009. There are a few services trying to tackle this primarily from an aggregated RSS feeds perspective but none of them have really impressed me. One bright spot for me here was Twitter Times which does a great job of showing me the top links being sent out by the people I follow on Twitter on a daily basis. What I want is a service that provides this across all the social media services I define it to but the challenge here is that every service would need a different set of data points to determine what the top content to show me would be. The data points would then need to be setup to be ranked by touch points that would be weighted higher by those in my social graph. For example, lets say I also want to see what YouTube videos were popular on a given day. The data points could be views, comments, favorites, and ratings. The touch points would be how my social graph affected each of those data points on a daily basis. Now keep in mind this is just one service and I want this to span multiple services across varying users on each of them and then have it displayed coherently for me on a daily basis. Ahhh one day perhaps.
Ok I think I started to ramble so I will stop here and just say that I won’t get my hopes up this year like I did last year (perhaps I jinxed it) but I do think the groundwork has been laid for what should hopefully bring us good things at the start of a new decade.
Keep on Lifestreaming!