A weekend hack called Friendsheet went from 60k uniques a month to 150K in 24 hours when Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg Liked it yesterday. Friendsheet employs Facebook Connect to turn the photos from your news feed into a Pinterest-style browsing experience. Thankfully it’s hosted on Amazon S3, Friendsheet’s creator Zach Allia tells me. Otherwise the Zuck Effect caused by his Facebook subscribers clicking through the news feed story generated by the Like could have crippled Friendsheet.
Turns out it’s not just Pinterest’s product, but the wide-screen, medium-sized photo panel layout it uses that resonates with people.
Facebook’s one update-wide news feed works well for digesting text. However, our eyes don’t need as long to view photos, and constant scrolling down a photo feed can be exhausting. Pinterest’s seven update-wide layout makes scanning large quantities of visual content easier. That’s why the Friendsheet browsing experience is refreshing and satisfying.
To make Facebook’s news feed more relevant, the EdgeRank sorting algorithm also hides photos from most of your friends. Friendsheet doesn’t have access to data on who your closest friends are, but doesn’t require it since it can make browsing all the photos from your network so fast. You will end up seeing photos from some acquaintances you forgot you ever friended, though.
First launched in January, Friendsheet lets you Like, comment, or re-share, click photos to expand them in a light box, or upload your own to be posted to Facebook. You can also see all of your own photos or those tagged of a friend in dedicated pinboards.
To be clear, the Facebook Connect-enabled site and HTML5 web app is not a competitor to Facebook or Pinterest. It merely repurposes and adds to Facebook’s content, and it doesn’t offer the web curation of Pinterest’s ability to display linked and not just uploaded photos. Still, if it gained more traction it could steal time-on-site from Facebook, and make Allia an acquihire target.
This isn’t Allia’s first viral hit. In 2008 he built the Free Gifts app, sold it to SGN, and bought it back. Next he plans to port his photo browsing product to the iPad as a native app and improve the HTML5 version. His motive is simple, “I wanted to bring the Pinterest feeling to Facebook photos and make it more of an experience than a task.”