February 18, 2008

FriendFeed Discussions Break Through the Walled Garden

Part of FriendFeed's allure is the concept of openly sharing comments and items from various Web services with friends and other like-minded individuals. The service, started by a group of former Googlers, so far has maintained its lofty technophile intellectual bent, largely as former Googlers have linked to friends who are current Googlers, and other technology-loving people have been drawn to the service, like moths to a flame, myself included.

But as the service has grown more popular, and as comments or shared items are typically made visible to the entire world, it's no surprise that the idyllic concept of these conversations forever remaining private is starting to show cracks. Today, we saw the first fissures in that foundation, as a pair of Google-focused or tech-watching blogs keyed in on comments made via FriendFeed, and pulled them outward to the unfiltered blogosphere.

See: Criticism of Unreserved Google Praise and Valleywag: Quotable

As recent FriendFeed hire, Kevin Fox, wrote in response to seeing one of the articles, "ripping the blanket of implicit FriendFeed privacy through obscurity seriously wigged me out, though I of all people should have known better." Another, Jim, simply added... "Uh oh, the party's over."

Only yesterday, a virtual war of words broke out between TechCrunch's Michael Arrington and Fred Wilson of A VC over the responsibility that bloggers attempting journalism should take - including original research. But those in the public eye, including those of us publicly making comments on FriendFeed, should expect those conversations to be at risk of repeating as primary source data, just like you take a risk any time you send an e-mail, make a comment on another blog, or post a note on Facebook. Anything that can be copied and pasted is fair game for a lot of people trying to make news and break news.

While it's with some regret we see FriendFeed moving beyond the initial stage of "a small beta site filled with a small group of friends", as Kevin Fox put it, it's also a wonderful milestone. I hope FriendFeed continues to grow rapidly, and that those using the service, notable quotables or otherwise, don't suddenly clam up due to the increased risk of potential exposure.