I have to admit I’m a little behind on the news of Facebook acquiring FriendFeed. My day today consisted of driving through up-state New York, and tonight I sit here typing just about a 15 minute walk from the beautiful Wonder of the World, Niagara Falls. There are so many better things to think about! (just see the pictures I took tonight) Yet, as I got the initial text via Tweet from Louis Gray today stating Facebook had acquired FriendFeed, I couldn’t get my mind off of what that would mean for both services.
For those that know my background, I’ve written 2 books on Facebook, both from a developer/platform perspective, and a marketing/user perspective (if you want to see what those books are, check out the upper-right nav of my blog). I’ve written numerous apps for Facebook, even sold one of them in just a few months after developing it, and spend much of my time consulting and helping major companies and app developers understand Facebook better.
At the same time, I have always been extremely bullish on FriendFeed. I love the open nature of FriendFeed and how it allows me to express myself publicly in ways I couldn’t before. I love the messaging capabilities, and especially the search and notification options FriendFeed offers me. I almost wrote a post about the perfect Trifecta of FriendFeed, Twitter, and Facebook, and how the three just work well together. I even predicted earlier this year that FriendFeed would be acquired this year. I have been rigorously researching and working on the developer platform that FriendFeed offers, and loe the open nature of it and their relationship with developers.
It’s because of this background that I had to think seriously about what I thought about this new relationship between Facebook and FriendFeed. I came to the conclusion that the two complete each other. They’re like two puzzle pieces just waiting to be joined. The thing is, I can’t think of any reason why they shouldn’t be together. Here are just a few reasons why:
FriendFeed Needs Privacy Controls
I was actually about to put together a post on this exact topic. I’ll try to keep it short here. I noticed recently that Louis Gray’s wife joined FriendFeed. I was excited, because this meant my wife, who is friends with Louis’s wife (albeit virtually), could actually have a chance at being convinced to do the same. The problem is that we have children old enough that I would prefer we kept their identities off the internet as much as possible.
At the same time I have had threats of physical assault before via my blog and elsewhere. I want to be more careful about what I type and who sees it. The problem with FriendFeed is that not only do my friends see it, but so do their friends, and their friends’ friends, and that pattern has the potential to go on forever. We saw this with the “mob” mentality that drove Michael Arrington off the site much earlier. Yes, this is also a strength and what makes FriendFeed powerful, but I want on occasion to have some control over who gets to see that, and from what Friend List I have on the site.
Privacy is Facebook’s main strength. Imagine FriendFeed being able to educate the Facebook team based on their own experiences with allowing “friends of friends” to see the data and cycling newly “liked” items back to the top, while at the same time allowing Facebook to give their own expertise of allowing those same users to make their items more private?
I think there’s a lot of power in that, and it’s something FriendFeed doesn’t have yet.
FriendFeed Needs Profiles
I’ve asked for profiles for quite awhile now. I want a way to identify myself on FriendFeed, so people can know who the person is regarding the feeds their reading. This one is simple – there’s no doubt that Facebook is good at this.
Facebook Needs Search
Facebook just proved today that this is a focus for them. And guess what – one of the first things they announced in their rollout of a new search engine was their recent acquisition of the FriendFeed team! This gives a lot of potential, not only for search, but also for the ability for broad, real-time search, across all of Facebook and more, something the FriendFeed team is really good at. The FriendFeed team will also be very good at making this search more accessible to the public, all of this while respecting their privacy preferences.
Facebook Needs Better Notifications
We all know FriendFeed is good at this. On almost every page (and it was soon also going to be on search pages) you have the option to have posts, or posts and comments sent to you via e-mail or IM. Also, each page has its own RSS feed, with support for PubSubHubbub, something the FriendFeed team helped instigate. This enables real-time updates via RSS. Facebook enables RSS on only very few pages – the FriendFeed team is very aware of this, as they have been trying to import that data from Facebook themselves! The FriendFeed team knows the headaches of the Facebook platform more than anyone!
Now, what if we could take Facebook’s current SMS capabilities, something FriendFeed does not have, and apply them to the FriendFeed-style posts, agreggation, updates, and search notifications we see on FriendFeed currently? I know I would certainly become a happy user, as this is something I’ve been asking for on FriendFeed since day 1!
Facebook Needs Better Messaging
I saved the best for last. Facebook has had its static Inbox for quite awhile now. We know they’re working on a new solution from posts by TechCrunch, AllFacebook, InsideFacebook, and others, but we know this is something Facebook just isn’t very good at. The FriendFeed Team re-invented messaging with their bare hands. Let’s put this in simple terms: Paul Bucheit, cofounder of FriendFeed, is the creator of Gmail. He now works for Facebook. End of Story.
Be at Ease
Sure, this news took a lot of people by surprise (although it shouldn’t have if you read my blog). Some people dislike Facebook. FriendFeed was the “new early adopters playground”. Early adopters don’t like going back to old things. It’s a little scary for some.
I suggest you wait a little. FriendFeed has a very competent team. We still don’t know what was in that contract they signed. Sure, we have some hints, but FriendFeed has yet to let us down. They have a perfect track record for long-time users of their service. They know what’s going to happen at Facebook, and while sure, things can change, you better bet they’ll be fighting for their existing loyal users. You now can know you have a team you can trust at Facebook, if you didn’t have that trust before.
Also, here’s what we do know: FriendFeed.com is still up and working just as well as always. Facebook now owns FriendFeed. FriendFeed may start integrating more deeply with Facebook. We don’t know that for sure. That’s all we know. Before you jump, think of your trust for the FriendFeed team and their track record so far. Let’s see what happens, and when they do take action that effects us we can make our decisions. Until then I’ll be waiting and supporting them and celebrating their recent success.
The two businesses could not have asked for a better relationship. I think because of this, Facebook all of the sudden has put out the announcement that they want to become more open like FriendFeed. We should be applauding them! FriendFeed has just announced that they leaped over Twitter and are more mainstream than they could ever imagine, as the exact same service they always were. We should be applauding them, too! Now think about that for awhile and let’s see what happens.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go spend some more time at the ‘Falls.