With all the Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt around FriendFeed.com one would think FriendFeed is this service that is going the way of Jaiku, Pownce, Dodgeball, and others that went dead after their owners acquired them. There’s no doubt that amongst certain users in the US the activity in their streams is going down and some are talking about it. Just last month, Robert Scoble, FriendFeed’s number one user and unpaid evangelist publicly announced his resignation from the service and move over to bigger services like Twitter. Even yesterday, Louis Gray, perhaps FriendFeed’s second most active unpaid evangelist (and both good friends of mine), shared a statistic seemingly indicating his disappointment with the service. Yet, when you look at the big picture, things are up and to the right. There are no statistics anywhere that indicate FriendFeed is anywhere close to losing users when you look at the numbers and the long-haul.
Louis Gray shared a Compete.com graph of unique visitors yesterday which indicated that in November, FriendFeed had shown less users accessing the site than its low point a year ago. What isn’t shared though is that Compete is normally only indicative of US users, and FriendFeed is well known as an international site, extremely active in regions such as Turkey and the mideast. Remember the activity FriendFeed got around the Iran crisis? Even Bret Taylor, co-founder of FriendFeed, now working for Facebook admitted that since August, International activity on FriendFeed is now dominating. See the graph below.
If you look at both Alexa and Quantcast 2 year stats, which when taken as a whole are generally a bit more acceptable a statistics engine in terms of general and international traffic, they both show an up-and-to-the-right trend for FriendFeed that hasn’t stopped since last year. There are a few down points, such as when 2 months in a row, TechCrunch wrote a scathing post about FriendFeed, comparing it to “the mob”, and Mike Arrington’s fallout after that (he was one of the top-followed users on FriendFeed up until that point). The next month Facebook acquired FriendFeed, and the lash back from users ensued, many discontinuing their use of the site, especially in the United States and Silicon Valley. The other major dip occurred in November, where Robert Scoble, FriendFeed’s most followed user, announced publicly that he was moving his activity over to Twitter and lessening his activity over on FriendFeed. FriendFeed still appears to be recovering from that, but it’s way too early to determine if that started a down and to the right trend – I doubt it. If you look at the Alexa stats, the 3 dips I mentioned occurred right around the the 3 events I just mentioned. Coincidence?
Yet, when you look at FFHolic, the site which ranks FriendFeed users and their activity, you’ll notice a change in the trends. The top users all remain the same – people from the United States and especially Silicon Valley which use the site rarely, yet are very popular. But when you look at the most active users, you no longer see the Monas and the Louis Grays and the Robert Scobles you used to see in that section. The most active users on FriendFeed are now their international audience. The second most active user, VAHID, has a feed of mostly non-English posts! So you can see that yes, when a very popular Silicon Valley blogger leaves the service, a huge chunk of the US audience leaves with them, and so does their activity, yet, the most active users aren’t even listening to or following those guys. FriendFeed continues to grow.
I predict there will be a shift, if this continues, where the most active users on FriendFeed soon will become the most followed people on FriendFeed. The more the popular users neglect the service, the more the more active users will have a chance to catch up to them. FriendFeed’s founding team has made it clear they’re not killing the service. In fact, they’ve been keeping it running and even improving it since they were acquired by Facebook. Check out the open source Tornado Framework FriendFeed is based on – it is still getting updates from the FriendFeed and Facebook teams. The FriendFeed team is all using the service still. FriendFeed was just included in the deal with Google for real-time search results, which means FriendFeed is most likely a revenue-generating site for Facebook now.
If anything, the Facebook acquisition of FriendFeed should have you more comfortable, not less, that it is going to be around for a long, long time. There is no reason for it to go away. If it does, they’ll make it easy to get the same features you are getting on FriendFeed over on Facebook itself so you can take comfort you’re not going to lose anything. But if anything should comfort you it’s that FriendFeed continues in an up-and-to-the-right pattern when you look at the big picture and not the short-term dips the big Silicon Valley bloggers keep bringing up. I still see stats for my blog on FriendFeed. As long as FriendFeed is successful Facebook has no reason to remove it as a service. There’s still too much opportunity here. It’s still way too powerful a tool to kill and I think we’re all jumping the gun with the “it’s dead” statements. There are no facts supporting that statement.