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.

Now playing: Jae Millz - No, No, No (remix) (feat. Camron & T.I.)


Thursday, February 28, 2008 6:47:04 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
I think you should also take a look at Spokeo: http://www.spokeo.com

It allows you to see what your friends are doing across the Web, without all the social layers.
Thursday, February 28, 2008 11:18:36 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
As the person who's post you referenced, I thought I'd log in and leave a comment. I do think there is a substantive difference between what my friends are doing and what the applications that they have installed are doing. Whether you like the distinction between "news" (things that happen to my friend or done explicitly by them - getting married, moving, getting a new job, or becoming friends with someone all count as news to me) and "activity" (adding or uninstalling an application, sharing a note or web link you found, etc) is a personal question - I think you make a good argument that there are some people who simply don't care and will want it all in one place.

At the end of the day, I have different appetites for what I consider news and what I consider activity. It gets chaotic and noisy for me (and perhaps not for others) to combine news and activity. I think this is part of the reason Facebook is taking steps to restrict the amount of news feed access they give to applications. That is only part of the problem. I just don't feel that the news feed is the place where I want to see everything that my friends find and share on the web. I like more segmentation. If there isn't a market for this, products like FriendFeed and Plaxo Pulse simply won't survive and will get steamrolled by Facebook.I by no means consider myself an "average" Facebook user, but I do know a lot of people who miss a news feed that was actually about their friends and not about a bunch of apps.

I think it's interesting that you compare FriendFeed to Odeo. I never thought podcasting was much of a market, no matter how top-notch the entrepreneurial team might be. FriendFeed reminds me a lot more of Twitter than Odeo - the Facebook news feed should have "killed" Twitter but it's clear there's a community of people who find value in both tools. Over time, both have developed differently and I believe they both have their own use cases.

Thanks for referencing my post and sharing your thoughts. I'm curious as to what you found contradictory about my post. All I'm suggesting is that I have different lenses to see information about my friends (relationships, jobs, etc) and other "stuff" like content they find, their Netflix queue, etc.
Friday, February 29, 2008 4:30:18 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
Interesting what you say about the application spam on the Facebook news feed. I've just blogged about some of the things that bore me about Facebook - see http://www.fusionview.co.uk/2008/02/facebooks-failings/ - and one of them is the fact that the Facebook feed only tells you about what people are doing in Facebook (locking you in) rather than what they are doing in the real world (in the way that Twitter can)
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