I found Charles Hudson’s post FriendFeed and the Facebook News Feed - FriendFeed is For Sharing and Facebook Used to be About my Friends somewhat interesting since one of the things I’ve worked on recently is the What’s New page on Windows Live Spaces. He writes

I was reading this article on TechCrunch “Facebook Targets FriendFeed; Opening Up The News Feed” and I found it kind of interesting. As someone who uses FriendFeed a lot and uses Facebook less and less, I don’t think the FriendFeed team should spend much time worrying about this announcement. The reason is really simple.

In the beginning, the Facebook News Feed was really interesting. It was all information about my friend and what they were doing. Over time, it’s become a lot less interesting.

I would like to see Facebook separate “news” from “activity” - “news” is stuff that happened  to people (person x became friend with person y, person x is no longer in a relationship, status updates, etc) and “activities” are stuff related to applications, content sharing, etc. Trying to stuff news and activity into the same channel results in a lot of chaos and noise.

FriendFeed is really different. To me, FriendFeed is a community of people who like to share stuff. That’s a very different product proposition than what the News Feed originally set out to do.

This is an example of a situation where I agree with the sentiment in Jeff Atwood’s post I Repeat: Do Not Listen to Your Users. This isn’t to say that Charles Hudson’s increasingly negative user experience with the Facebook should be discounted or that the things he finds interesting about FriendFeed are invalid. The point is that in typical end user fashion, Charles’s complaints contradict themselves and his suggestions wouldn’t address the actual problems he seems to be having.

The main problem Charles has with the news feed on Facebook is its increased irrelevance due to massive amounts of application spam. This has nothing to do with FriendFeed being more of a community site than Facebook. This also has nothing to do with separating “news” from “activity” (whatever that means).  Instead it has everything to do with the fact that Facebook platform is an attractive target for applications attempting to “grow virally” to send all sorts of useless crap to people’s friends. Friendfeed doesn’t have that problem because everything that shows up in your feed is pulled from a carefully selected list of services shown below

The 28 services supported by FriendFeed

The thing about the way FriendFeed works is that there is little chance that stuff in the feed would be considered spammy because the content in the feed will always correspond to a somewhat relevant user action (Digging a story, adding a movie to a Netflix queue, uploading photos to Flickr, etc).

So this means one way Facebook can add relevance to the content in their feed is to pull data in from more valid sources instead of relying on spammy applications pushing useless crap like “Dare’s level 17 zombie just bit Rob’s level 12 vampire”. 

That’s interesting but there is more. There doesn’t seem to be any tangible barrier to entry in the “market” that Friendfeed is targetting since all they seem to be doing is pulling the public RSS feeds from a handful of Web sites. This is the kind of project I could knock out in two months. The hard part is having a scalable RSS processing platform. However we know Facebook already has one for their feature which allows one to import blog posts as Notes. So that makes it the kind of feature an enterprising dev at Facebook could knock out in a week or two.

The only thing Friendfeed may have going for it is the community that ends up adopting it. The tricky thing about social software is that your users are as pivotal to your success as your features. Become popular with the right kind of users and your site blows up (e.g. MySpace) while with a different set of users your site eventually stagnates due to it’s niche nature (e.g. LiveJournal).

Friendfeed reminds me of Odeo; a project by some formerly successful entrepenuers that tries to jump on a hyped bandwagon without actually scratching an itch that the founders have or fully understanding the space.

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