Life is but a stream? Musings on FriendFeed

If you’ve been on Internet lately, you’ve undoubtedly heard about FriendFeed. For awhile, it seemed like everywhere you clicked people were praising it to the heavens or railing passionately against it. (Their PR person must be doing quite the dance of joy.)

So what does it do besides divide opinions?

The name gives you a clue right off. FriendFeed is a social aggregator (or lifestream) that consolidates and centralizes a user’s public activity streams from multiple services across the Internet and basically syndicates them.

It’s pretty nifty actually, to have your comments from Twitter, your blog updates, your videos from YouTube and your music from all converging in one place

There are other similar services- like Socialthing! and SecondBrain – but none of them seem to have caught fire with the key early adopters the way FriendFeed has.

Launched this past February, the site had attracted many of the key names of the Web 2.0 world by early March. In fact, Louis Gray soon published a list of the “significant number of top tier ‘name brand’ bloggers” already using the service.

What’s really odd is that somehow the hype about the service has devolved in some quarters to the most hotly-contested turf war since Team Aniston vs. Team Jolie, only much more intellectual and without the T-shirts (so far).

Now it is Friend Feed vs. Twitter. Louis Gray has been practically evangelical in his praise of Friendfeed. Thomas Hawk posted this image that should prove satisfying to everyone who has had to deal with the “fail whale” one time too many.

Steve Gilmor proved the best representative of the other camp, penning a spirited defense of Twitter.

But though the battle lines were clearly drawn, it seems that whatever inflamed this supposed skirmishing has receded and calm has been restored.

And that’s good – because the animosity made no sense. Basically these two services do very different things. Twitter is great for broadcasting and quick real-time contact whereas FriendFeed allows for the experience of a threaded conversation away from the anchoring of a blog. There’s really room for both, unless Twitter’s problems with downtime continue extensively and then its demise will be self-inflicted.

Have any of you used both services? Do you prefer one to the other? Can you see room for both? And why do you think this issue blew up so rapidly?

Maybe the big question is the one Steve Rubel asked a few weeks ago:

Is Friendfeed the Next Big Thing or are We Just Bored 2.0?

UPDATE: NOOO! There’s another way Twitter and FriendFeed are alike. I just got this message on FF:

“We encountered an error on your last request. Our service is new, and we are just working out the kinks. We apologize for the inconvenience.”

Oh dear.


6 comments so far

  1. Melanie on

    Great post! My answer is this: I prefer FF to Twitter because it’s simply does more of the things I want this sort of tool to do. And I’d like to stress the word *tool*. All of these things are more tool than service (though they are defined collectively as SNS or YASNS). I like having a feed of my various content streams aggregated in one place. Twitter doesn’t provide video or audio or pictures – FF does.

    This pattern is always the same. A new thing comes along, it’s cool but it’s just the start. Then other developers grab hold of the idea and remake it. The once cool “original” becomes a bit of a joke next to the flashy new versions.

    The real question is this:

    What services work best for YOU?

    For me, right now, I find the following most useful:

    1. FF – aggregates ALL of my content in one location and allows for context and community (specific to each item)

    2. Second Life: Virtual spaces are coming to play more of a role in my networking and content “sharing”

    3. Linkedin: Takes all of my social journeys and translates them into concrete business contacts.

  2. Vitaly Kolesnik on

    Twitter lets me update my stream via sms, the feature I greatly appreciate because I can quickly capture ideas/thoughts and better use my sparce time.

  3. abbymartin on


    Thank you for the post!

    And thank you for pointing out the tool vs. service distinction- I guess tool is the better word as it implies you are utilizing the platform and being creative and proactive, whereas service is more you using something set up for you.

    What works best for me? I’d have to say right now Playhouse Disney’s Preschool site because it is the only thing that distracts my daughter long enough to let me get any work done. (Well that and when my husband reluctantly lets her fly his dragon around World of Warcraft.)

    I find I am really liking FriendFeed- as a vaguely Jurassic Gen Xer and sleep-deprived parent, I like having everything consolidated. Plus I like seeing the whole conversation around a comment and not just the “@whoever blah blah blah.” (Plus, as you can tell, I am verbose. 140 characters isn’t enough.)

    I still use Facebook as some of my friends from my early life have just discovered it and I like the fact it allows for more of a sense of “dialogue” than e-mail. But we’ll see….

    And I do use Twitter, but these days more to catch up on the people I am “following” there (wish they’d use a less stalker-ish term) and to nag the husband to pick up something like milk on the way home from work.

  4. abbymartin on


    Thank you for the comment! Welcome.

    Twitter is very useful for some things- I often use it to buzz my husband if something important is going on and vice-versa. But we’re both a tad nervous about its reliability these days.

    Still, I agree that when time is short, Twitter can be a fast way to capture things.

  5. Ironic on

    Sorry, but when I think of Second Life, I think of The Office episode where Dwight creates a second life game…within second life.

    Also, virtual money is great, but it doesn’t do anything for you. Sure, your WOW Night Elf can buy a sword, but the power is about to be shut off because the electric company doesn’t accept virtual money.

  6. abbymartin on


    That Office episode was funny. And I hear what you are saying. As a frequent weekend WOW widow (say that fast), I get the sentiment.

    I also get the allure of escape and trying on another identity/experience- but not if it is at the expense of your first life or your family.

    But in moderation, why not?

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