The Would-Be FFugees Shouldn't Pack Up And Find A New Home Just Yet

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Your Guide To Music On The Web – Part #1

the_scoreFollowing Facebook’s acquisition of FriendFeed, a lot of users in that community were up in arms. Basically, everyone was quick to jump to the conclusion that FriendFeed, as we knew it, was dead. And with the comments immediately following the deal, the parties on both sides did little to change that line of thinking, basically saying things along the lines of “we’ll see.” Many users were threatening to leave the service immediately, turning them into yes, FFugees.

Well, now that the FriendFeed team is successfully in their new Facebook office and working to get up to speed on their new site, Steve Gillmor got a chance to catch up with FriendFeed co-founder Paul Buchheit, and to ask him some of the questions that Mike didn’t touch on too much during his interview with Buchheit last week. Warning, the video below is quite long (over 50 minutes) and free-flowing at points, so I’ll summarize some of the key things said first.

Of note:

  • FriendFeed was in between large new internal projects when the Facebook deal came along, so the timing was good for it. That said, they were working on a new feature to allow you to pipe FriendFeed feeds into FriendFeed Groups. While you could import pretty much any feed previously, you couldn’t import an entire FriendFeed feed into another feed. The service was working on that and still plans to launch it, but Buchheit says he wasn’t running point on it, so doesn’t know the timing details.
  • Buchheit has a lot of trouble pronouncing PubSubHubbub. He also talks a bit more about their SUP implementation to speed up the gathering of information.
  • Buchheit is not aware of a conspiracy on Twitter’s behalf to slow down their feed coming into FriendFeed post-Facebook deal.
  • While FriendFeed had switched from Twitter’s XMPP feed to the newer HTTP-based feed a few months ago, Twitter recently requested that they update again to a newer HTTP feed called “Birddog”. Birddog is the name of one of the restricted feeds of Twitter data, you can read more about it here.
  • With regard to the old FriendFeed team’s focus right now, Buchheit notes that for the time-being it’s dedicated to the issues Facebook is facing, and learning now Facebook actually works.
  • That said, while new FriendFeed development may stop during this transition period, maintenance that needs to get done to FriendFeed will get done still indefinitely.
  • Buchheit notes that the FriendFeed team is still using FriendFeed to talk internally about their new projects at Facebook.
  • Buchheit notes that Facebook had shown interest in FriendFeed basically since they launched the company in 2007. But FriendFeed was never interested in an offer from them until they actually started talking to people on the Facebook team recently and saw their vision for where they want to take the product.
  • He jokes that the whole “has Facebook been copying some of your [FriendFeed’s] features” thing helped the FriendFeed team actually see that they were at least interested in the same goals in some regard. (Something which, ahem, I pointed out in my first TechCrunch post.) Buchheit notes that a couple years ago Facebook was just profiles and games, now it’s much more.
  • Buchheit likes the idea of FriendFeed clones popping up. Their new API allows you to do a lot of things, and offers much of the functionality of actual FriendFeed, and he hopes people keep building cool services on top of it. The APIs will live on.
  • He still believes that long term, all of these status and information streams should be more federated in some way, much like how email is. Of course, Facebook is known now for its lack of openness in that regard, but Buchheit cites Facebook’s unique security issues as being a reason to take it slow. Still, he sees a future where Facebook is much more than just a website, where it’s more of a platform for the web, and he believes that is what Facebook wants to be as well.
  • Buchheit notes that the Facebook inbox is not his favorite feature, but that it was born out of the long history of email where people have expectations like subject lines and signatures. (Buchheit was instrumental in creating Gmail for Google.) He notes that direct messages, like the kind used on Twitter and FriendFeed, are much more efficient for messaging now.
  • There won’t be a literal dropping in of FriendFeed code to Facebook because that wouldn’t work well.
  • On the topic of the fears some FriendFeed users have about still using the service because their data may just disappear if FriendFeed does, Buchheit notes that if anything, the Facebook acquisition has lowered the chances of that happening. He says that in the big picture, it’s so little data, and takes very little to support. And Facebook is a huge, secure company now. (He is, of course, alluding to the fact that FriendFeed was in a much less stable position in the market.)
  • Buchheit reiterates again that he is not worried about FriendFeed vanishing. And he believes that some features may start to appear in other forms on Facebook that users will like. And there may be some experimentation with that relatively soon.

Those are many of the key points, but again, if you’d like to watch a nearly hour-long video on this fine Saturday, please be our guest below. Hopefully much of this will further put to ease the minds of would-be FFugees.

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