FriendFeed Is Doomed, But It Always Was

Aug 11 2009

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I read with interest and some amusement the news items today about Facebook buying FriendFeed. Robert Scoble is convinced this is great news, and he got the impact absolutely right, though I think he’s still blind to one important point.

What did he get right?

Scoble wrote: 1. This is Facebook firing a shot at Google, not at Twitter. [snip]

2. FriendFeed is dead.

FriendFeed the site will continue to operate independently for a while, but the engineers will get folded into Facebook and eventually FriendFeed will merge with Facebook and become an anemic side feature on that site. That’s what almost always happens during mergers: the smaller guy gets merged into the larger, becoming less efficient in the process or completely subsumed.

Even if that doesn’t happen, FriendFeed has a larger fundamental limitation. FriendFeed is too content-rich for most people. Early adopters love it. Geeks love it, because they’re used to dense streams of input. But for the vast majority of users, it’s too much.

Let’s compare it to Twitter. Now, Twitter is not exactly the same kind of service, nor am I suggesting it is. Bear with me.

I currently follow 218 users on Twitter. I can keep up with that much conversation throughout the day; I rarely miss any tweets.

When I signed up for FriendFeed, as soon as I subscribed to more than a handful of people, I had more content than I could reasonably read. Between comments, photo collections, embedded videos, and the messages themselves, FriendFeed was sending me so much stuff I couldn’t keep up with it.

And the solution, of course, is to read differently. One doesn’t read FriendFeed the way one reads a book; one skims rapidly.

But most people don’t do that.

Most people want to keep up. Most people want to be able to actually read what their friends are saying. Heck, there are two reasons I use TweetDeck, and one is the column I set up showing just tweets from my closest friends (the other is the ability to manage my OtakuNoVideo account simultaneously).

FriendFeed got a huge surge in initial popularity because it’s the perfect tool for techie early adopters who regularly and happily deal in large streams of information. But—and this is what I think Scoble doesn’t see—it’s not as useful for the rest of the population. Most folks see that huge stream of FriendFeed entries, feel exhausted, and go to YouTube.

Again, FriendFeed is a great service for a certain brand of person. But it’s not for everyone, and I don’t think it ever would have been.

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