Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Rob Salkowitz and FriendFeed's "sketchy" future - is the sky falling?

If you want to get someone's attention, tell them something that affects them deeply. Tell an Apple lover that the iPhone will have new features when/if AT&T gets around to allowing them. Tell a Dodgers fan that Manny Ramirez is on maternity leave. Tell me that FriendFeed's future is "sketchy."

That word was used in an email that I received from Internet Evolution.

Social aggregators like Friendfeed offer unprecedented convenience, but their future in the social media ecosystem is sketchy

The email linked to the June 3 post Social Aggregators: Web 2.0's New Trick. The series examines not only FriendFeed, but also Ping.fm, MyBlogLog, and Plaxo. Concentrating on the aggregation facilities (rather than the community facilities) and also throwing Google Wave into the mix, the post concentrates on the ease of creating an aggregation facility:

Technologically, many aggregator sites are little more than glorified RSS feedreaders, cobbling together a bunch of APIs to push and pull content from the underlying services inside a configurable Web interface. This simplicity means that the opportunity to compete on unique features for more than an instant is practically nil, and there is no ability to lock users into the platform in any meaningful way.

And if you follow Rob Salkowitz's argument that the real value in aggregators is in data mining, then it makes sense to go to the biggest data mine - in this case, Facebook. Or the most-connected one:

[I]f the aggregator landscape sorts itself out and Google doesn't crush everything in its path, the winning aggregator will probably enter into agreements with the underlying providers that protect its dominant position in exchange for revenue sharing. The dominant aggregator will probably also be a prime target for acquisition by Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) or a big media company -- assuming it is not owned by one of them already.

Now my initial reaction as a FriendFeed fanboy is to stand on my soapbox and scream, "FRIENDFEED IS NOT AN AGGREGATOR! FRIENDFEED IS A HOST OF COMMUNITIES! FRIENDFEED SUPPORTS DISCUSSION!" And, if I were honest with myself, most if not all of the other services are also more than simple aggregators, allowing different types of user interaction with the material from the feeds. But can you make money off of interaction and discussion? Perhaps you can if the eyeballs somehow fit into your monetization plan.

Ah, FriendFeed's monetization plan. I addressed that in my contrarian post of May 26:

Many people, myself included, have been critical of Twitter's delay in announcing its monetization strategy. I have maintained that a monetization strategy needs to be addressed quickly, since monetization affects many other issues. A Twitter subscription service, for example, would dictate lower traffic than a free-to-use Twitter service funded by advertisements. Yet while people have been complaining up and down about Twitter's failure to monetize itself, there has been a strange silence about FriendFeed's monetization plans, if any. Are they going to wait a few years before they hire a product manager to figure a monetization strategy out?

I should note the reply from Rob Nelson (guruvan):

monetization - it has been a long standing tradition in the internet industry to wait to announce a monetization strategy until a dedicated userbase has been established. Why should FriendFeed be any different than, say, Google? (from which the founders come!)

If Nelson is correct, then FriendFeed (and, for that matter, the other services) still have some time to announce their monetization strategies. But if Salkowitz is correct, then the "aggregation" service that jumps out ahead with a working monetization strategy will leave the others in the dust.

So...who's right?
blog comments powered by Disqus