I like to think of Friendbook not Facefeed

Surprise news last night was Facebook’s acquisition of Friendfeed.

Facebook – a giant among social networks – has grabbed the comparatively-tiny Friendfeed content-sharing service (which has just 12 employees) as the means to accelerate Facebook’s product development plans, according to some opinion in Silicon Valley.

Others say it’s all to do with further refining where the battle lines with Google will be drawn, including the future of Twitter (I imagine speculation will now be that Google will swoop there).

TechCrunch snagged an early interview with two of the key protagonists from Facebook and Friendfeed, largely focusing on the deal being about ‘product innovation and openness.’

The most interesting interview, though, comes in a conversation between Robert Scoble – consistently Friendfeed’s most outspoken evangelist – Friendfeed co-founder Paul Buchheit and Facebook VP of Engineering Mike Schroepfer, recorded on BlogTalk Radio’s Cinch (I tried this service earlier this year: it’s not bad at all) and published to Scoble’s Friendfeed account (where else?) at about 9.30pm UK time yesterday.

There’s nothing dramatic in the 5-minute informal and unscripted conversation – this is not your usual kind of slick mainstream media interview – nor is there anything much different to what others connected with the acquisition have said publicly:

  • Facebook likes Friendfeed
  • Facebook has great products and long-term plans
  • We had no need to sell the company, we could have continued for a number of years, but we recognized this was a tremendous opportunity
  • We’re committed to the Friendfeed service long term
  • Too early to speculate on what we’re going to do in the short term
  • The service will continue running
  • We think it’s the right thing for the Friendfeed team and for the users
  • No, we’re not going to talk about the financial aspects of the deal (but the Wall Street Journal has the numbers: they say Facebook paid nearly $50 million for Friendfeed in a combination cash and stock offer)

I’d agree with those who see this acquisition as a milestone event, an element in the evolving state of how we connect with other people online, form communities and the means we use to do that.

From the Friendfeed user perspective, what does this tie-up with Facebook mean?

Well, as a Friendfeed user myself since early 2008, my immediate reaction when I heard the news was, “Oh no, there goes the neighbourhood!”

I like Friendfeed’s openness and the fact you can engage with people there much like you do via Twitter: highly informally, sharing links and comments without the pressures to join groups, give or receive gifts, and all the proactive social things I generally find too intrusive in Facebook when all I really wish to do is share content links and talk informally about things of common interest where everything is linkable and shareable on the public web – no walled garden.

And I wonder what will happen to one of Friendfeed’s best feature: Rooms. For the FIR podcast, we have a room – the FIR Room on Friendfeed – that currently has over 280 members. It a place the community prefers over other places, eg, the FIR group on Facebook we started way back. Nothing goes on there: it all happens on Friendfeed.

But everyone’s different and what may appeal to me about Friendfeed and Facebook may be partly or entirely different for you: one of the great things about freedoms of choice.

In thinking about drawing those battle lines with Google, and the Microsoft-Yahoo tie-up, maybe it is all about search.

Still, I’m not going to make judgements or concrete opinions about anything until it becomes clearer what may happen. As the guys said in Scoble’s interview, there’s little point in speculating on what they’re going to do in the short term.

I just hope the evolution is “Friendbook” rather than “Facefeed.”

Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.

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