friendfeed has been attracting a lot of buzz lately, with some even comparing it to the megabuzz Twitter received coming out of last year’s SXSW, and I needed to find out why. So I put an hour aside and signed up for an account. Here’s what I’ve found.
It’s a feed
friendfeed is appropriately named, as it is just that: a feed of your friends’ activity. You sign up, give friendfeed your username and password for the social networking/social media services you use, and that’s it. It creates a custom feed that broadcasts what you’re sharing on said services.
It’s an aggregator
Think of friendfeed as a service wallet. You’ve got a bunch of different stuff in a bunch of different places, and friendfeed pulls it all together, folds it nicely, and stores it in one place.
Here’s what the import screen looks like:
Friendfeed supports importing shared data from 33 services. They are:
It’s a bookmarking service
friendfeed’s offering is centered around collecting and republishing favorited content. If you favorite a video on YouTube, it shows up on your friendfeed. If your uncle Ralph dugg a story, it’ll show up as a link from him in your friendfeed.
It’s a discussion
In addition to just grabbing all your stuff and putting it in one spot, friendfeed adds one piece of functionality: discussion. For example:
I posted that message on twitter, and if someone was following my friendfeed, they could comment on my message. friendfeed takes the conversation from the network they’re scraping and hosts the discussion themselves. I see the use there. I may want to comment on something someone said in a network I’m not a member of, and rather than joining
something new to add my opinion, I could just do it in friendfeed.
It’s a social network
In order to get value out of friendfeed, you need to subscribe to people. This is the biggest bummer for me: finding my friends all over again. While the service exists to centralize disconnected broadcast streams, you have to start from scratch to re-friend the connections you’ve made elsewhere. I know, I know: it’s the price you pay for joining something new.
friendfeed offers an email scrape (just add your gmail, yahoo, or hotmail account, and they’ll see if any of your friends are already using the service) to help find contacts, and they actually recommend friends to subscribe to. I’m not sure I’ve seen that before:
friendfeed looks to see who is popular among your friends, and recommends them to you.
It’s a good idea
I often find myself overwhelmed by the sheer number of services I use to find new stuff, see what my friends are doing, and follow and join a conversation. I have to bounce between twitter, gmail, Outlook, and my blackberry just to communicate. I spend time blogging, twittering, and stumbling upon. I’m dropping digital crumbs everywhere I go, and something like friendfeed sounds ideal. I should be jumping up and down alongside all the friendfeed cheerleaders. But I’m not. And to be honest, I’m not sure why.
Maybe I’m experiencing friendfeed the way I first experienced twitter: as something that, logically, seemed like a waste of time. Like twitter, maybe friendfeed is something that has to be experienced to understand. Or maybe- and this seems more likely to me- I like using twitter on twitter, and I like using LinkedIn on LinkedIn.
All of the services that friendfeed brings together are services that have a distinct “feeling.” If I’m tweeting about the next location on a pubcrawl, I’m in a much different mood than when I’m updating my resume on LinkedIn. When it comes down to it, I don’t think my problem is with the service, instead, it’s the concept.
I’m all for sharing and weighing in on discussions, but I’m not sure I want to share everything. I am the first to admit that I present myself differently depending on the role in which I am a social actor. It’s basic impression management. The setting dictates (or at least helps to guide) the structure of the interaction. But when you aggregate all your social
personas in one place, the role definitions dissolve, and the “me” I want to present in a professional role (LinkedIn) is displayed next to the guy at the pub crawl (twitter). I’m not sure I want those two versions of me together.
Though friendfeed is good at aggregating disconnected streams of shared data, I think I’m going to sit this one out. But hey, that’s what I said about Twitter. Sweet, beautiful Twitter.