FriendFeed Isn’t The Next Google – It’s Just The Next… FriendFeed

Steve Rubel says FriendFeed could be the next Google. I think he might want to step outside his bubble and reconsider.

Wait – what’s FriendFeed?

 FriendFeed That question, right there, my friends, is why I think Mr. Rubel is wrong. First, though, a little on FriendFeed in case you don’t know much about it.

FriendFeed is a “lifestreaming” service – a tool that aggregates what you’re doing online. If you write a blog, share photos through Flickr, post updates on Twitter and vote for things you like on digg, FriendFeed lets you pull all of that into one place – into a ‘stream’ of information. FriendFeed also lets you subscribe to other peoples’ lifestreams, letting you you stay up-to-date with what your friends are doing online.

Layered on top of that, FriendFeed allows you to show which posts in other people’s streams you like and to comment on them. It also lets you post messages directly to the service.

So what does Rubel think?

Essentially, Steve Rubel argues that FriendFeed is turning into a personalized, recommendation-based search engine for him. He bases it on three trends:

  • The rising influence of peers (see my post on Edelman’s Trust Barometer for details on that)
  • 90% of the online population conducts searches online
  • Young people are happy to post their lives online

I’ve probably over-simplified here, but that’s the gist.

Bursting the bubble

Bubble The problem with Rubel’s idea is scale. FriendFeed is small – Rubel acknowledges as much, noting that it has just 300,000 active users right now.

The difference between our opinions is that Rubel thinks that FriendFeed could become as big as Google, whereas I think it’s for those firmly within the social media bubble. It’s neat, but it’s a shiny object and the main people who seem to be getting a lot of value from it seem to be the A-listers with huge lists of contacts. That doesn’t make it a game-changer.

To make a “lifestream” worthwhile, you need to use several other services. It has an additional barrier over other web 2.0 sites – you need to use other services, and heavily, before FriendFeed gains value.I do; Rubel does; most people don’t.

If you’re not in the bubble, or on the leading edge of the “Millennials,” you (a) wouldn’t even see a need to pull this stuff together and (b) wouldn’t get any value out of it anyway.

What’s more, other tools have provided this functionality for a long time.

Google Reader long ago became my number two search engine for new media stuff – it lets me search trusted sources for information. What’s more, you don’t need the people you trust to use Google Reader for it to work. With FriendFeed you do (ok, you can get around that, but only über-geeks would even think of doing that).

Similarly, del.icio.us lets you search through the sites other people have bookmarked. Again, it has fewer barriers than FriendFeed – people just need to use del.icio.us, not a bunch of sites, for it to be useful to them. You don’t even need to sign up for del.icio.us yourself to search it.

Maybe things are moving in this direction. Who knows, maybe Google, Mahalo, etc will move to a more recommendation-based system. I just don’t see FriendFeed as part of that outside the bubble.

FriendFeed is a good service, for its market. However, it’s not the next Google. It’s just the next… FriendFeed.

What do you think?

(Don’t get me wrong here – while I’ve never met Rubel, I have a lot of respect for him. I read his stuff on a bunch of channels (including FriendFeed). I just think he’s off base with this one.)

(Photo credits: cambodia4kidsorg, tarotastic)

  • Dave, I have to agree with you. I’m inside that social media bubble and yet it took me a long time to buckle under pressure and even sign up for FriendFeed. I don’t find it useful. Perhaps I don’t know how to find-tune it to filter the noise:signal ratio, and I’m certainly not in the trends-forecasting biz like Rubel, but I don’t see FriendFeed becoming mainstream for a long time, if ever.

  • To this day I still refuse to use FriendFeed for the very reasons you mentioned. The only place I seem to hear about it is in the “social media” circle. My current issue with ANYTHING “social media” related is that it seems the same people exist in each application tried–people exploring the NEW way to get your thoughts out there. The span of any of them right now (for me) is limited when the people you want to HEAR you exist outside the “social media” circle sometimes.

    I put quotes around “social media” because I’m starting to think the definition is becoming a little over-saturated in meaning that only the inner circle can get off to.

  • I agree. This is a tool that only has relevance for those of us inside the (social media) bubble. If you go out into the real world, there are very few people who know anything about Twitter, RSS, Web 2.0, FriendFeed, life casting, wiki’s or any of the social media tools that the inside the bubble crowd go bonkers over.

    On a recent trip outside of the bubble, Kara Swisher did an informal poll on Twitter (read it here: http://tinyurl.com/665p24 ). Her findings aren’t surprising. Most folks hadn’t heard of Twitter. And I imagine it’s the same for FriendFeed too.

    Time will tell, but I think it’s going to be awhile before “social media” moves outside the bubble and into the mainstream.

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  • Second|Brain has maybe a bigger potential of being the new Google than FriendFeed. SB does the same as FF, but goes further. It even offers 1GB storage space. It’s still in beta and far from critical mass – userwise.

  • One thing I’ve noticed from using Twitter side-by-side with FriendFeed (thanks to twhirl) is the overwhelming sense that I’m being told who I should listen to. With twitter I picked the personalities I wanted to follow and every once in awhile I could talk to them and they’d talk back. Although I saw Ford Motors uses FF for their social media PR room, I’ve had to wade through my FriendFeed list to find anything near the concentration of value I’ve been getting from a Twitter/Google Reader combo.

  • I’ve probably had way too much koolaid .. but some nonprofit techies got together and did a little experiment using FriendFeed room to share resources. Using Friendfeed we had a quick conversation re: pros/cons – and some techniques to get around the signal to noise – which isn’t too bad in a room – because people have to intentionally share items. Also, this is a known community of people with a particular interest.

    Here’s a few posts about our various experiments
    http://beth.typepad.com/beths_blog/friendfeed/index.html

    Funny thing I found you because I’m cambodia4kids on flickr!

  • Okay, now I’m getting confused. With the new features added today, they are calling Facebook the next FriendFeed. At what point does it just become one big network that does everything for everybody? And do we want that? http://tinyurl.com/6yuxup

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