I’m a fan of FriendFeed, the Internet service aggregator self-described as:
FriendFeed enables you to keep up-to-date on the web pages, photos, videos and music that your friends and family are sharing. It offers a unique way to discover and discuss information among friends.
For an example of it in action, you can see my profile here. Basically the site pulls from a variety of sources, such as Digg, YouTube, Flickr, my blog, etc, and presents all the content in one view. As you can see to the right of this screen, I use a widget to show my latest content from FriendFeed here on the blog.
While FriendFeed (FF) is a neat way to follow someone, it gets much more interesting when you use it as a new type of discussion forum. If you click here, you’ll see everything I’ve commented on. Again, from a “watcher’s” perspective, it’s still only moderately interesting (at best), and if you don’t see the point right now, I totally understand. Personally, I like the ability to rapidly share content and interact with others in fun (or serious) debate and discussion. I still believe it’s a niche play right now, but I think they have an interesting opportunity to get much much bigger.
At present, if you comment on one of my blog posts, that comment is stuck, it’s isolated to my blog (though it is retrievable over RSS, for those who really want it). I could use a service such as Disqus or CoComment, which allow my comments to get aggregated with other blogs’ comments, but I don’t really see how that benefits either me, my reader, or those who leave comments here. That said, those services are also integrated back into FF, which means a Disqus user’s comment on a blog post ALSO appears as a new content entry in FF. This is only the beginning of the mess, which compounds as users can comment on a Disqus comment INSIDE FF, but that comment doesn’t make it OUTSIDE back to Disqus.
If I’ve lost you, don’t be alarmed – this doesn’t impact more than a few thousand people (at best) so far. But when you look across many of the social networking sites (like Facebook, etc) and content sharing sites (like YouTube, Flickr, etc), the common abilities are to comment, favorite, and re-share content you find. FriendFeed does a great job pulling in all that content, but I think the ability to push the content OUT is where the real opportunity to succeed exists.
I believe the Internet today is highly fragmented and disassembled. I have my LinkedIN contacts and my Facebook friends, and some overlap. I have my photos on Flickr, my lengthy videos on YouTube, and my short videos on 12seconds.tv. I have people who read my Tweets and follow me on FriendFeed, but don’t subscribe to my blog. In every single site I just mentioned, users can comment and share content, but what they cannot do is have their experience contributed back to the source material universally. In other words, if someone comments on my blog here, my FriendFeed followers do not see it, and my blog readers here are unaware of FriendFeed users’ comments.
My belief is there is a big opportunity to fix this problem of content fragmentation. FriendFeed (or virtually anyone else, but they’ve built a good chunk of it already) can take their platform, and create an API that allows for bidirectional content delivery. At present, they are great at pulling in content, just don’t share it out well (and RSS isn’t good enough), and as we all know, anyone can take reservations, you gotta hold the reservation! If FriendFeed could build the de facto content aggregation and distribution platform that integrated across all content sharing and social networking services, it would become an instant acquisition target.
Sooner or later the “Internet’s middleman” must emerge. As people continue to sign up for more new services, our content and experiences become harder to share and find. The silos of content and, more importantly, content discussion, are frustrating and annoying to all but the earliest of tech adopters and “a-listers” (who seem quite willing to put up with anything just to try new stuff). For the majority of people out there, a certain degree of “registration fatigue” is setting in, and whether it’s FriendFeed or Facebook, or someone else entirely, there’s a big opportunity sitting out there, waiting for someone to jump in.