Tuesday, March 10, 2015

My October 2007 impressions of FriendFeed, and what I didn't understand at the time

I have always maintained that your view of the online world is greatly governed by your lircles (lists, circles, whatever your service calls them).

While 7 billion people of the world were spending Monday paying attention to a computer watch, or simply trying to survive, a significant portion of people in my lircles were talking about FriendFeed's final month.

I've already written about it. Twice. Others have weighed in, such as Louis Gray. One thing old FriendFeed users have in common - we DON'T. SHUT. UP.

I could theoretically write a history of FriendFeed myself, but there are other people who are much better equipped to do that. But I got to wondering - when did I first hear about FriendFeed? I had to go back - way back - to find out the answer.

Cue up a post that I wrote on Sunday, October 28, 2007. Back then, my online presence was under a pseudonym (Ontario Emperor). And under that name, I wrote a post called "Experimenting with FriendFeed."

It turns out that Dave Winer was tweeting about creating something called a "FriendFeed page." Winer's first observation:

Friendfeed doesn't seem to support RSS which makes it more or less useless

Little did Winer realize at the time that many people would (unfortunately) conclude that RSS itself was useless.

But back to me. These mentions from Winer piqued my curiosity, so I created a FriendFeed page under my Ontario Emperor pseudonym. My Empoprises FriendFeed page would come later. I'm not going to bother to link to either of them, since if you're reading this post a couple of months from now, those two pages (probably) will not exist.

So what was the first thing that attracted me to FriendFeed? Its initial killer feature, aggregation.

I've linked Friendfeed to a few of my services, including a last.fm page that I rarely touch.

Well, I touch that last.fm page much more now. Sort of; I actually touch Spotify, which scrobbles to last.fm. But I digress.

This whole idea of aggregating services seemed fascinating from a theoretical standpoint, but I didn't know whether it was anything more than that.

Not sure if it will prove useful in the long run, but we'll see.

What I didn't know at the time was that there were people like Mark Krynsky - whom I would meet at a FriendFeed meetup later - who were actively looking at something called "lifestreaming," anticipating the moment that every aspect of our lives would be recorded online. And FriendFeed was, in some respects, the beginning of that.

Although I didn't realize it, since my final comment on that first post compared FriendFeed to...MyBlogLog.

I've already observed that the list of services supported by Friendfeed is shorter than the list of services supported by MyBlogLog (my page for the latter service is here). However, MyBlogLog only provides links to the individual services; Friendfeed aggregates their content.

While myself and certain of my noisy friends will rave about the FriendFeed community - witness my semi-random mention of "19,000 likes" and "10,000 comments," something that will cause a few to shed a tear - the real power of FriendFeed was that it caused some very influential people to spend some time lifestreaming, paving the way for many of our interactions today.

Think about it. What if you never paid attention to sharing where you've been, how many steps you've taken, or how many books you've read? I'm not saying that FriendFeed directly resulted in Foursquare, Runkeeper, Goodreads, and the like, but it certainly opened the eyes of many people to lifestreaming possibilities.

But I'm going to give the aforementioned Mark Krynsky the last word - something that I've taken from a blog post that he wrote a few months after chowing down at Five Guys with me - and a couple of days after Facebook acquired FriendFeed.

FriendFeed chose to pave a new path beyond solely being a Lifestreaming service. They quickly became a differentiating service when they decided to go down the SocialStream path and focus on creating conversations around the items that made up people’s Lifestreams. They did this by launching two features that would become their defining ones to achieve this. First they created a very quick and simple way to allow people to create comments on items. Then they changed the logic of just displaying a reverse chronological stream of items by introducing the “like” feature. As users of the service would click on the like button (or comment on them), that item would re-appear withing peoples streams. These two features (which were both subsequently copied and implemented by Facebook) are what propelled them to become a very powerful conversational platform that I feel has to this day not been matched in another service.

So even if you aren't the Foursquare or Runkeeper type, consider that a billion-plus Facebook users are liking and commenting on things - a feature that Facebook borrowed from FriendFeed even before the acquisition, and a feature that is all over the place today.

And it all started on FriendFeed, including the guy who amassed 19,000 likes and 10,000 comments. Damn him.
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