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abbeyI went to a birthday party this weekend where I ran into a Facebook guy, a smart guy who asked me to go off the record. In fact, the whole party was supposed to be off the record. So I ignored the off the record part by insisting that I already knew the thing I was being told, and then I told him on the record what I thought was about to happen for Facebook. This being my usual m.o. which is to insist on not being NDAed except for things I don’t really want to talk about anyway, like the next version of Office.

That way, I can just make up what I want to have happen, never breaking any confidence and yet at the same time painting as plausible picture of assumed reality that it is hard to deny or in fact slow down. So here’s what I told the Facebook guy: the company has at most 3 months window to absorb FriendFeed and open the Everyone News Feed, and if that’s true (again, making all this up) then the messaging about how that’s going to work must begin immediately, like in two weeks. Then I went home and saw MG Siegler’s post and Scoble’s remake of Frenzy on FriendFeed.

OK, so I was off by two weeks. The noise about the death of FriendFeed is already off the charts, and the proof is in the lack of rejoinder from the FriendFeed team. As in: of course FriendFeed is not dead, and here’s what we’re going to do to remake Facebook in the next few weeks. Actually, that is indeed the message from Twitter, what with Lists and ReTweets and the return of Track just as soon as, well, sometime next year or so. No need for FriendFeed real soon now, because these Lists will soon be carved up and meshed together into an authority stream by the 3rd party developers.

Siegler nails the one provable negative about FriendFeed Facebook edition which is the lack of any innovation moving forward. The one thing the FriendFeeders didn’t get in under the wire before the money arrived was stream splicing, the ability to mesh together lists into an authority stream. Is that coming soon from Twitter either? Nope. So the antidote to FriendFeed stasis is Twitter right up until stream splicing is enabled… by who? As of right now, that would be via the FriendFeed APIs. If Siegler/Scobler are right, the danger of doing that is iterating on a dead API.

Here’s where the FriendFeed is dead rumor falls apart. OK, you’re Facebook and you’ve just spent $50 million or actually $15 million plus NetWhuffie stock. Now we sell the deal as a talent buy, which of course it is because the talent built the damn thing. We put Brett Taylor in charge of the platform (API) and Paul Buchheit in charge of something else he hasn’t said yet. So Taylor can still deliver stream splicing, just not in the FriendFeed context. Buchheit, the Gmail guy, now what do we do with him….

Remember, where were the FriendFeed guys when the clock was stopped. They were streamlining not just the API but the architecture of what used to be rooms and what was now groups. Subsumed into that construct was the wonderful Imaginary Friend notion, another way of saying how do we capture individual streams and normalize personal and group communications. Meanwhile, RSS is dying and with it readers of same, and we begin to see seedlings like Threadsy and Brizzly popping up to address the vacuum. Can we assume the Gmail guy might be in a good position to noodle down on this, particularly given the Google Wave fork under way across town?

Obligatory Beatle analogy: I’ve spent the last few weeks partying on the Beatles Mono Mixes, in particular the period that began with Rubber Soul, followed by Revolver, and then jumped ahead to the White Album and its companion Part II, also known as Abbey Road. In just two years, the group transformed themselves from lovable moptops into four individuals who wrote music to avoid board meetings with accountants (Something) and seers who mixed Tibetan chants with backwards tape loops (Tomorrow Never Knows.) At the time it seemed like a lifetime, but in mono as they blended this stuff together it takes on a sense of purpose and inevitability that belies the official storyline.

In effect, with Abbey Road they tied up the loose ends of the White Album’s API and architecture, injected the realtime nature of Revolver and the betrayal of Norwegian Wood, and sold the company to EMI on the promise of new records from a group that had already broken up. Listening to the mixes and reveling in the deconstruction of Beatles RockBand, you can see how intricate their alchemy became during those brief two years, and how valuable it would become for the ages. As David Crosby said recently of a CSN project to do cover versions of favorites, when it came to the Beatles, they’d work up one or another from memory and then give up after listening to the original.

This then is what Facebook bought, or rather invested in: the best work and that yet to come from this group of engineers, strategists, and explorers of realtime. It’s easy to forget how completely wrongheaded it was to attack the realtime experience, how to this day Wave is reviled as an unbridled solution to a problem that doesn’t exist. What are people afraid of to fuel this alleged stampede for the exits, particularly given that there is no credible replacement for many of its most addictive features? The very hysteria of the charge, a cry for no one, a love that should have lasted years.

More likely is that we’ll see a healthy battle for the legacy of FriendFeed between Facebook, Twitter, and Google. First will be the conversational flow, still a pathetic hack in Twitter, possible in Facebook only with a fast (three month) Everyone newstream rollout with 2 way Twitter/Everyone stream sync. Never mind the Web site; this has to come from the API, complete with granular tools for filtering the flow by data type and guaranteed RSS-hubbed delivery. Facebook must invest quickly in stream splicing to make filtering useful, and Twitter Lists give them the room to build it while no such tools exist on the Twitter side.

Second, if there is a second after that first takedown, is splicing email and personal FB data into the stream, through a combination of intelligent push into email for filtered stream data for mobile clients and harvesting of the Twitter follow and List social graph as an open directory outside Twitter’s control. Google has a play here with Gmail, but they need to drive here with Wave taking a backup role rather than the other way around. Buchheit is the key here, regardless of who does it, and Twitter’s lock on direct messages needs to be factored in in the Facebook sync planning, something that didn’t survive the cut in the FriendFeed lockdown.

Yoko didn’t break up the Beatles. The Beatles did. FriendFeed isn’t dead. It’s just getting started. And the walrus is Paul.

  • scott

    I don’t want Gmail to become social. I’d rather see FriendFeed reincarnated from a mashup between Reader and Wave. Inject Wave widgets into Reader and inject Reader feeds/lists into Wave documents then expose a PubSubHubbub XMPP gateway API within the Wave XMPP protocol.

  • Adam

    Need a way better picture…

  • jyoseph

    In my opinion, Wave isn’t in the same space as Friendfeed or even twitter or Facebook. It strikes me as more of a tool for collaborating on projects than socializing about the daily minutia.

  • Robert Scoble

    Actually what we need is desplicing. I already have spliced together all my feeds. I have 7,000 aimed at my home page right now. What I need is a better way to desplice out the useful tweets from the noise.

    Then we need curation tools so I can tell you more about those tweets.

    FriendFeed got so close.

    FriendFeed had a fatal flaw, though: it let everyone onto your home screen without your personally putting them there.

  • arzu zorlu

    Thanks for sharing. Good post.

  • mike

    “That way, I can just make up what I want to have happen, never breaking any confidence…”

    I should have stopped reading after that. Great journalism and integrity you have there. Oh, and you should think about running these things passed an editor who can fix your ramblings and make them a little more coherent.

    • Jehosephat

      Wait to get a sense of humor until they’re on clearance. I’m not sure you’d get much use out of it.

  • Dustin

    Yet another rambling Gillmor post that I can barely follow without getting frustrated.

  • Jake

    words > thought. You’re a journalist. This is supposed to make sense.

    • Robert Scoble

      It does make sense. You just need the decoder ring. Listen to the Gillmor Gang and you’ll get one.

  • Cori

    Oh good, based on the other comments, I’m not the only one who didn’t gather a single coherent thought from this “article.”

  • Iggy Kin

    Nice article Steve, FriendFeed isn’t dead. This article gives lots of people lots of hope and I agree with you that Paul Buchheit is the key. If you can find out what Paul is doing …

  • Travis

    Facebook has “filters” which allow anyone to “splice” the stream anyway they seem fit.

  • Tom

    I couldn’t even finish reading this. Where’s the dude’s editor?

  • Flabbergasted

    Just when I thought Gillmor was finally drifting into sanity, along comes another incomprehensible post. I suspect the correct way to read this sort of thing is chant it at high speed with the hope that, like subliminal advertising, some sort of hidden message emerges through the babble, like it does in the movie “Pi”.

  • Stick Handle

    puff puff pass steve

  • Learn To Fucking Write

    I gave up trying to understand what you were saying about 3 sentences in.

    Oh, and Friendfeed is not dead.

  • Bill

    Here’s a Beatles analogy for you: This post is about as cogent as the song Revolution 9.

  • FriendFeed Not Dead, Just In A State Of “Chrysalis,” Says Co-founder

    […] had things to say about the decay and seemingly inevitable death of FriendFeed. That included us, twice. While this was going on, the FriendFeed team remained largely silent, even on their own product. […]

  • Charisma

    Intersting, It seems that privacy is dead and I know with yahoo, you can see what your friends have done and posted on messageboards, etc. Its quite scary!

  • Scott Magoon

    Steve, forget inserting an obligatory Beatles analogy into a longer article. Just make the whole thing one big Beatles analogy. It’s an underserved niche.

    And for those complaining that there’s no editing, what makes you think this wasn’t already cut in half from the original submission?

    • Dave Winer

      Actually Steve made a classic mistake, he didn’t hedge his bet, so now he looks like a complete idiot for having said that the FF guys had the patent on the future.

      They got scared competing in the rough and tumble world of technology. They liked to stay home instead of getting out there and making the deals needed to get the news flowing through their system. Too bad cause they were close.

      They should have taken the BART to the city a few more times instead of waiting for everyone to come pay homage in Mountain View. Even better, gotten on an airplane to NY and got to know how the media biz works. They have nice technology, but you need news to make it sing.

      Steve thinks he’s the only one who has copies of the remastered Beatles, or was a fan when it was new, but I bought a set at Amazon and am now listening to the STEREO version of Because.

      Because the wind is high ahhh love is old is love is new. Love is all love is you.

      And I bet my sound system is more fuck-you-up than Steve’s. Oh yeah, and I actually write code, so I don’t have to wait for someone to write it for me.

      And I can write just as confusing a mess of prose as Steve can — so there! :-)

  • Technology blog » FriendFeed Not Dead, Just In A State Of “Chrysalis,” Says Co-founder

    […] had things to say about the decay and seemingly inevitable death of FriendFeed. That included us, twice. While this was going on, the FriendFeed team remained largely silent, even on their own product. […]

  • robertsonhonda

    I think Steve has some kind of contract with TechCrunch whereby they are now required to give him regular posts.

  • Techno Information » Blog Archive » FriendFeed Not Dead, Just In A State Of “Chrysalis,” Says Co-founder

    […] had things to say about the decay and seemingly inevitable death of FriendFeed. That included us, twice. While this was going on, the FriendFeed team remained largely silent, even on their own product. […]

  • CyberPotato » Blog Archive » Friend Feast

    […] the midst of all this, Steve Gillmor wrote a strange post comparing the decline of Friendfeed to the breakup of the Beatles. In their period of final […]

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