March 14, 2008

Duncan Riley Misses the Point of FriendFeed

Yesterday, it could be said that FriendFeed "tipped", as TechMeme's Gabe Rivera put it. Dozens of visible FriendFeed users reported getting an unprecedented swarm of subscriptions by new friends, and the site gained incredible exposure via comments on a number of high profile blogs, including a highly prominent role on TechMeme for virtually the entire day. In the wake of its dramatic rise, TechCrunch's Duncan Riley checked in with a quasi-analytic comment this morning, saying after a day's use, he doesn't get the service's value versus Spokeo or a host of others who "do exactly the same thing."

And to put it bluntly, he missed the entire point. TechCrunch is right a lot of the time, but not today. FriendFeed is not the exact same thing as any service out there, and there's no way that Duncan could have given the service its full due in his limited exposure to it.

FriendFeed has been described by different folks as a social Web lifestream, by others a Web services aggregator, or as a conversational platform. But it's not just one of these things - it's all of these things. There are a definitely a wide number of sites out there that let you share all your activity in one place, or to track friends' activity, but FriendFeed is the only one that lets you share items directly to the feed, elevate discussions through comments and show "likes" to highlight individual posts.

See my FriendFeed here:

Like Twitter, FriendFeed enables users to sift from the best of the blogosphere to find their friends and peers. No two individuals' FriendFeed is exactly alike. And while I once questioned why anybody who wasn't a Web services junkie and RSS maven would join, I've seen users who want to be consumers of information instead of producers of information enjoy the service, solely for communicating with friends. And while the term "friend" can vary from service to service, FriendFeed has got the formula right. I can see quickly who likes the same items I do, who contributes to FriendFeed conversations that I do, and if in need of new friends, I can use FriendFeed's recommendation engine to suggest people my friends find interesting.

Looking at Duncan's stream on FriendFeed (, I can see he imported his service and added friends, but he didn't participate. He didn't comment on other items. He didn't respond to others' comments. He didn't "Like" anything. He took a very passive approach and it's the interactivity of FriendFeed that sets the service apart.

Luckily, others besides Duncan get the FriendFeed story. Muhammad Saleem writes Where is the value? Connections or Conversations?, where he says conversations are more important - a big win for FriendFeed. Adam Ostrow of Mashable said yesterday that FriendFeed Crossed the Chasm, Frederic Lardinois of Last Podcast noted FriendFeed's Big Day, Dave Winer said FriendFeed Gets Interesting, Robert Scoble loves the service, and both Corvida of SheGeeks and Mark Evans gave me some of the credit or blame for yesterday's spikes. (See: Louis Gray Is The Culprit and What’s the Caramilk Secret?).

FriendFeed is winning not because it has smart folks behind it (though it does) or because it has more services supported than most competitors (which it does) or because it has a strong evangelist (though it does). FriendFeed is winning because it is interactive, it is architected intelligently, and the company listens to its users. Maybe Duncan will listen to this one.


  1. Great explanation of FriendFeed. You have to interact on these services to really get then and FriendFeed makes it so easy and does it so well! It's definitely not a service you could just "watch".

  2. I'm shamed to say I still don't *get it* myself. Sure, I can interact with FriendFeed, but the interaction is all on a layer that is removed from the content. Wouldn't it make more sense to comment at the blog, youtube video, or twitterstream in question?

  3. Looks like just another "make work" service. This stuff is just crappy busy work type activities for people with too much time on their hands.

  4. I think you've written a valid point that Duncan did not participate enough... Just adding friends isn't enough, interaction is a must to start enjoying the service.

    Anyways, I think Duncan hasn't enjoyed the service because there are so many places to share info and interact with friends that you possibly can't do it simultaneously at so many "SOCIAL" sites!!

  5. It probably doesn't help that, as a writer for TechCrunch, he has to use many web apps already.

  6. I'm sorry, but I agree with Duncan, and said so in the comments. I've been on FriendFeed for a month, and still see no motivation to go to another site to comment on things I can comment on much more easily IN THE APP being aggregated. I don't need to reply to someone's Tweets on FriendFeed when I can use Twitter, and the reaction is much more immediate.

    I added more contacts after the "in" group started joining it, and still don't find it any more worthwhile than I did last month. It's possible that for social networking addicts, one MORE avenue to socialize is worth it, but when you are already using tons of

  7. Louis,

    I give you lots of credit for raising FriendFeed's profile and driving them its way. Every new services needs someone willing to wave the flag for all the right reasons, and you've clearly emerged to as FriendFeed's.


  8. Hey Louis - Actually came home to a whole bunch of new Twitter follows ... Go figure. Congrats on the top TechMeMe spot where I just found this.


  9. Thanks for the explanation. Good to know that

  10. I don't expect any one service to elicit a uniform response from such a diverse set of potential users. Duncan didn't seem to like it, and as he noted on Twitter today, 60+% of those polled on TechCrunch don't get it yet either.

    But I know I use it a lot and many of my peers do as well. That FriendFeed is now getting more well-known in the mainstream is great, and we'll see what happens over time.

  11. This morning, rjmoriarty asked, "Wouldn't it make more sense to comment at the blog, youtube video, or twitterstream in question?"

    FriendFeed offers four advantages to commenting at the original artifact:

    First, I may not even know about the original artifact. For example, Louis may subscribe to one or two things that I do, but I'm certain that he doesn't subscribe to all of my output. Perhaps he'll see something in my FriendFeed that he wouldn't see otherwise.

    Second, in at least one case FriendFeed offers commenting capabilities that the original artifact can't offer. I am a heavy user of Twitter, and sometimes I'll see tweets that I like, but my response to the tweet may cover more than 140 characters.

    Third, sometimes it's not appropriate to comment at the original artifact. For example, one day I tweeted

    "@commuter ont i10 eb jammed at euclid. 2 rt lanes clsd @ 4th. vineyard archibald offramps clsd."

    Then I subsequently added a metacomment via FriendFeed:

    "i was 10 minutes late for maundy thursday rehearsal. my fault."

    The metacomment wouldn't have made sense as just another tweet, but it made perfect sense as a metacomment overlaid over the previous artifact.

    Fourth, you have the whole community aspect. This has been enhanced by some improvements that FriendFeed has recently made. Should anyone have a bizarre interest in knowing what I like, they can see the entire list. Similarly, they can see all of my comments. This additional layer of likes and comments overlays the original content, adding value to it.

    Just my thoughts. Now I'll go to FriendFeed and say that I like this post... :)

  12. I think you're actually missing the point of what Duncan is saying, which is that other services have absolutely the same features - including the social ones of commenting. Plaxo Pulse and Jaiku both feature this, and other features too.

  13. Why is it that FF doesn't support rss? Obviously they want us to stay onsite but it doesnt look good. Otherwise I could track your feed in rss reader but...

  14. Louis,
    I think Dunkan and anyone else for that matter is entitled to their own opinions on the service and just because it is not the same as yours doesn’t mean that he is missing the point.

    You like FriendFeed and in fact seem to be quite obsessed with it ;). It is great that they deliver what is useful to you in a way that you like to use it, but this is not the case for everyone out there. I know many other people who do not like it and are happily using other services available because they offer something more appealing to them. This is what makes this a competitive space and keeps people innovating.

    Just my 2 cents


  15. Anon RSS question: pay attention to your address bar... friendfeed gives you RSS feeds. ;)

    moving on...

    Nice to see an up and coming blogger like Louis with their finger on the pulse.

    I'm definitely feeling friendfeed and was off put by Duncan's TC post in the first place. It, too me, seemed hasty and egotistically under-researched. Honestly, I don't think your post was calling him out in any way*... and he's actually made some rather offensive (and immature) remarks on his personal blog. I don't know... this industry moves fast, 8000 miles isn't as close as part of the heartbeat... So keep up the power blogging and honest posts!! Good stuff. You're subscriber count goes up by no less than 1 right this moment... (I'm sure I have company.) ;)

    *He's done the same thing... as someone who professes to "know blogging" I assume Duncan would be familiar with blogging as a communications platform and a way to unite and, yeah sometimes, disagree... but to resort to proverbial name calling as he has done is something I think people are tired of, just like in politics. If blogging were politics I'd assume this is where the liberals are... where do I sign.

  16. Congrats Louis. Getting pissed by TechCrunch guys certainly translates into decent traffic and attention ;-)

  17. I think you're right that it isn't the same as other services out there, but my problem with FriendFeed is that it tries to be all things - one of them is a conversational platform. Whereas for activities it acts as a convenient aggregator, for conversation it does the opposite and divides the conversation. I want a single conversation thread, not multiple.

    I just posted my friendfeed post with more blabber.