Blog Post

FriendFeed Syndicates Your Life

What if the solution to having too many social web services was another social web service? That’s FriendFeed, a yet-to-be-launched service from some former Google (GOOG) employees that I’ve been trying out this week.

screenshot2.jpegYup, you’ve got to enter in your friends again, and upload a profile pic. But then you depart FriendFeed to do the things you normally like to do — upload photos, write 140-word broadcasts about your life, listen to music. Your friend, also a FriendFeed member, goes and does the things he likes do to — update his Netflix queue, write full-length blog posts, Digg stories he finds interesting. Through FriendFeed, you’re kept apprised of one another’s activities.

Say he starts writing reviews for Yelp — he doesn’t have to tell you about it, you just start seeing it show up in your FriendFeed. You get an aggregated feed, in one place, of everything all of your friends do, while you can push out an aggregated feed of everything you do onto a blog or social network (click on the thumbnail on the left for a screenshot of the setup, and the one below the jump for the public site feed). It’s a Facebook news feed for the whole web.

FriendFeed was just recently pulled together — it’s currently running a private beta test, incorporating, and closing funding all at the same time, co-founder Bret Taylor said in a phone interview on Wednesday. Taylor said he built the tool on the side while working as an entrepreneur in residence at Benchmark Capital with fellow ex-Googler and FriendFinder co-founder Jim Norris. “We became addicted enough to scrap what [else] we were working on,” is how he described the origins of the company.

screenshot4.jpegThe funny thing is, in some ways FriendFeed makes the web less social — stripping away the community features that make specific sites special. But it also makes the web more social, by emphasizing your real-world connections rather than relationships built around common interests or objects, and bridging together the little online islands where we express ourselves.

Taylor said early users tell him that “it’s not really about socializing in the traditional social network sense, it’s really about finding things to watch or read or listen to when you’re bored or waiting for something to happen.”

So what is FriendFeed, a big-picture idea or a side project? The question, said Taylor, is “Can we take the whole web and sort of project it through your social network?” Co-founder Paul Buchheit added, “We’re just trying to glue together the web.”

And if the impetus was improving on the Facebook news feed, what’s to keep Facebook from doing the same thing itself? “We want this to be open in all directions,” said Buchheit, citing various blog widgets and iGoogle modules. “It’s not a destination.”

With what appears to be a few hundred users in the beta, it was hard for me to find 10 people I knew on FriendFeed, and thus hard for me to see how useful this product really is. Still, we can’t be entirely uncritical: these are closely watched ex-Googlers we’re talking about, and they’ve already received a writeup in the New York Times. For me, some potential concerns that come to mind include private and public distinctions, and filtering loads of little alerts and activity records into something that’s not overwhelming. There’s also a risk of becoming too abstract — for instance, a FriendFeed item of a blog post that was Dugg could have at least three separate groups of comments.

Oh, and at some point this little project might have to make money!

Funnily enough, FriendFeed is not the only startup from former Googlers we’ve profiled today. Also check out my post on NewTeeVee about Ooyala, a video syndication and advertising platform.

22 Responses to “FriendFeed Syndicates Your Life”

  1. Dandelife has 7,000 members currently and features a very similar “streams” narrative along with in a social network slash life-blog setting. Though I’d love to have been the first with this idea, I can attest to 30boxes claiming that rank. Honestly, not a huge feature for us at Dandelife. But it would be interesting to see if having some ex-googs touting the benefits of friend feeds to validate us all.

  2. Narendra, FriendFeed does have an “imaginary friend” feature that lets you add non-members’ public feeds. You’re right, it similar to what you guys do.

    Does anyone know if any of these other services have a significant amount of users? I had not heard of a lot of them. Unless these are just going to be passive social feedreaders, it seems really important to get all your friends on the same platform.

  3. Paul Buchheit

    Thanks for the review Liz.

    Your concerns about the product are very reasonable, and I think shared by many of our users. Our primary reason for launching early is so that we can hear from real users as soon as possible and improve the product to meet their needs.

    One solution to the “entering all of your friends again” problem is to install the FriendFeed FaceBook app. If any of your FaceBook friends also have the FriendFeed app installed, then they will automatically be added to your FriendFeed. We’re also exploring several other options for quickly finding your friends on FriendFeed.

  4. It is nice to know when my friends uploaded new photos on Flickr, but as written above me, it’s not a new thing.
    I’m using 8hands for my updates upon any activity on my profiles and some of my friends profiles.

  5. I sure hope we aren’t going to be subjected to media interest in every new thing put out by ex-Google employees!

    30 Boxes has been doing this for more than 18 months and you don’t need your friends to be registered to get updates…

  6. I really think the idea as a service has a good future… Since all the social networking sites are becoming popular and everyone now a days has a blog, its a nice thing to have…

    Should be also helpful to detectives or ad companies tracking some specific user!!