FriendFeed seems to be staying one (or two or three) step(s) ahead of Twitter in everything they do. Today FriendFeed released their real-time stream of data in beta to any and all developers wishing to write applications. Unlike Twitter, there is no application necessary, no NDA to sign, and all is controlled by simple OAuth. This also means users of FriendFeed-based applications will no longer need to get their special key to manually enter as was previously required.
The real-time stream is based on long-polling techniques to receive near-immediate updates of data from FriendFeed. With Long-polling, developers send a request to a given address, which the server holds open until data is ready for that request. The result is real-time data from the polled source, in this case FriendFeed. It is also less server-intensive as compared to the typical push updates similar to what Twitter is using for their /track and real-time streams, so in theory will scale better (and to me shows the maturity of the FriendFeed team as compared to Twitter’s).
In addition to their real-time stream, FriendFeed released an OAuth solution to developers, enabling users one-click access to the FriendFeed data stream for compatible apps using the platform. SocialToo, my service currently using the Twitter and Facebook platforms, will be using this authentication as well as we integrate FriendFeed into our environment. It will enable simple, one-click login and registration into our system, making it much easier for users to use socially-based applications.
My favorite addition is the integration of social graph data into the stream returned by FriendFeed. Previously, only the list of people a user subscribed to was available via the FriendFeed API. Now, both the list of those subscribed to, and those subscribed to a user are provided, enabling apps like my SocialToo to very soon be able to provide useful analytics around those following you on FriendFeed. Yes, this will also enable auto-follow and auto-unfollow (to keep out spammers) as well if users opt to do so.
Other features released in the API are the ability to upload almost any file attachment to a user’s FriendFeed stream, access to the powerful (and more than 140 character) direct message features of FriendFeed, sharing to multiple streams at once, and more. In addition, FriendFeed is returning the HTML for users and groups, so developers don’t have to differentiate between the two. Hopefully, this will also enable FriendFeed to maintain control of the API and, if you ask me, provide advertising and monetization opportunities via the API in the future as well, which Twitter has completely lost control over.
FriendFeed’s API has proven to have potential as a much more flexible option for developers than Twitter’s in the past, and I think they’re proving that with the new features. In addition to the features launched today, developers can also opt to customize the requests they send to FriendFeed, specifying query parameters about exactly what information they want to retrieve about users, allowing much smaller and much fewer requests to the platform. This is a welcome site as compared to the Twitter platform, which forces entire requests to pull information about a user and their friends, forcing much larger data requests, and higher costs for developers in the end.
FriendFeed is putting the pressure on Twitter with this release. My hope is that developers will see this, and try the platform out, giving Twitter more pressure to fix their own platform issues. If you haven’t tried it, today is the day for Social Platform developers to try FriendFeed’s API.