FriendFeed: Will You Accept Facebook’s Friend Request?

Breaking news coming from Silicon Valley today includes the apparent acquisition of FriendFeed by social media giant Facebook. Coverage was spread across all the major blogs, including TechCrunch, Mashable and reported on other websites like Louis Gray, Aaron Brazell and FriendFeed power user Robert Scoble.

I’m not sure if this makes much sense for FriendFeed to be in bed with Facebook and it seems that a lot of people are not feeling the love from the buy either. Realistically this is probably a boon to Facebook because it literally gets one of their competitors out of the way (if you can call FriendFeed a competitor). As noted in TechCrunch’s article:

Over the last year or so, Facebook has “borrowed� quite a few of features that FriendFeed popularized, including the ‘Like’ feature and an emphasis on real-time news updates.

Just look at Facebook right now. You can definitely see how their engineering team has already recreated the features that they loved from FriendFeed and now left FriendFeed high and dry. You can already mark photos, videos or status updates with the “like” feature or even do some real-time commenting on people’s walls or even their status updates and get persistent notifications that “so-and-so has posted a new comment on your wall…” so you can see how FriendFeed isn’t really getting anything out of this. Or are they?

To me, Facebook has always been a social network. Never engaged in this whole real-time aspect of information and content distribution. That’s what I thought of Friendster, Myspace and Facebook. But slowly Facebook has started to evolve and has seen Twitter become practically a household name like itself. So in order to compete with Twitter (although not necessarily in the same niche market), Facebook needed to really find someway new to do battle. They started making real-time functionality a part of the platform. So they did…but no one really did real-time as good as FriendFeed, in my opinion, so that’s probably why they decided to buy them.

So what does this mean to you, as a marketer? It means that you might have an improved interface on Facebook to which you can interact with your customers. One thing that has become pretty visible right now is that there is much more noise on Facebook than before. Now FriendFeed could perhaps bring some order and help control how the discussion is handled both in real-time and with some added value. Also, perhaps your “like” feature will actually have some value now that FriendFeed will be a part of it. When I use FriendFeed, I had integrated it with several social networks that I used. That’s the good thing about using social media – integration and the sharing of information. So naturally if I liked something on FriendFeed, then the value I get from undertaking that action would result in others knowing about it via tweets on Twitter or notations on other areas that I designate. However, look at that “like” feature on Facebook and you’ll see that it only as a placebo. There’s nothing rewarding about marking something as “like” – only self-gratification to the content author letting them know you like it. Nothing more. No additional awareness is raised.

FriendFeed's community responds negatively to Facebook purchase.

Naturally the reports coming from FriendFeed shows that not all their userbase is ecstatic about this move. Indeed, when the note came out on the official FriendFeed page by co-founder Brett Taylor, a slew of responses came back decrying this acquisition. It seems that in the world of social media, Facebook has become the 800 pound gorilla that does nothing good and seeks only to absorb independent companies for their own gain, leaving behind a trail of misery and chaos.

In looking at the response, one thing that piques my interest is something Aaron Brazell wrote on his post FriendFeed is now in a relationship with Facebook where he writes about the development side of both companies:

Facebook has a historic closed stance and, though opening up certain APIs such as Facebook Connect, and allowing developers to develop applications for Facebook, it still stands as a relatively closed system. In order to really engage with Facebook, you really have to be using Facebook itself or the mobile apps built for Facebook.

FriendFeed has a robust API that developers can access to distribute or repurpose the content within. It has failed in many ways by not providing a really great application ecosystem, but on paper, it is much more robust of an open system than Facebook.

So from a development standpoint, could this be a merger that combines the best and the worst of both worlds and that will help offset each other? By that I mean that it could be possible that FriendFeed’s team will “encourage” the Facebook development team to be more open with letting people experiment with their data and also allow the FriendFeed the opportunity to work on a much greater application ecosystem. A win-win for both companies.

But perhaps what everyone is saying will wind up being true. Facebook already has stolen the features that FriendFeed has and is working on producing more real-time works. So what value does FriendFeed really have in the long-run? Perhaps nothing. Only time will tell…is it too late to ignore the friend request?

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By Ken Yeung

Ken Yeung is a journalist fascinated with the tech industry and internet culture. He's currently Flipboard's Assistant Managing Editor, overseeing news curation in technology, science, gaming and health. In addition to his day job, Ken's the co-host of "The Created Economy" podcast, examining the Creator Economy. In a past life, he was a former reporter for VentureBeat and The Next Web, covering tech startups, the industry's innovations and funding.