The concept of FriendFeed is simple enough. You add disparate accounts across blogs and social networking services, and Friendfeed aggregates them so friends can follow what you’re doing. The interface is clean, not surprising given the company was founded by ex-Googlers, and using it is easy.
I asked for some feedback on FriendFeed via Twitter and Michael responded saying that Friendfeed was this year’s Twitter, complete with SXSW inflection point. Others, such as Steve Rubel and Louis Gray are talking about the service like it was the most amazing thing they’ve seen in years.
I signed up to FriendFeed yesterday to see what the fuss is about. Having used it for a day I don’t get why FriendFeed is that much better than the range of other services that do exactly the same thing. Plaxo Pulse immediately comes to mind, and there’s Spokeo, Second Brain, Social Thing and Iminta as well. Certainly FriendFeed wins (by a small margin) on usability and scope, but it’s still yet another service in a sea of similar startups.
Then there’s the why behind wanting a feed of content from your friends in the first place. As the chart I pulled from FriendFeed demonstrates, nearly half of all entries from my friends come from Twitter. But if I’m a Twitter user and these are Tweets from friends wouldn’t I be reading them in Twitter anyway? Next comes blogs, and while I may not have every friend’s blog in my feed reader, the ones I mostly want to read I’m already subscribed to. Like Twitter this seems like duplication to me, and FriendFeed doesn’t offer the content from the post either like a full feed would. Google Reader is next on the list: again, duplication as it pulls shared posts from Google Reader…which are shared within Google Reader.
Ah, but you can leave comments on feed entries some will point out and engage in a FriendFeed conversation. If most of the content on a FriendFeed is pulled from Twitter, wouldn’t discussing the points on Twitter be the logical outcome for the majority of people? Blog posts get comments on FriendFeed as well, but how rich an experience is a comment thread based on a headline with a link? As a publisher, wouldn’t you want people to hold these discussions on your blog? There’s already a precedent of sorts as well: coComment tried to take blog commenting to a centralized point without 100% of the conversation remaining on the blog itself, until it realized that it was a failed model.
There is a market for aggregation services, and yet instead of creating a two way interactive service like Google’s still in development SocialStream will be (the real future of aggregation), FriendFeed seems to be nothing more than a fancy RSS service with commenting thrown in for good measure.
I may be wrong on FriendFeed; it took me months to get the appeal of Twitter so I may well end up becoming a FriendFeed convert as well. But what I see so far keeps prompting me to ask “what am I missing?”