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Perspectives on building technology businesses and AcceleratorIndia from Cartezia

FriendFeed tries to change the face of social networking

Friday, September 19, 2008

A new generation of social networking sites, led by FriendFeed, is trying to challenge the model of social networking companies such as MySpace and Facebook. The new service started by the creators of Google Maps and Gmail, claims that it is at the heart of an anarchic counter movement of 'lifestreaming, where users themselves aggregate and order their online social activities from multiple sources.

Since its launch in February 2008, the service has won over leading bloggers and early adopters who complain that Facebook is too structured and not sufficiently open to other services. These bloggers have also become frustrated by frequent interruptions at Twitter, the popular micro-blogging service that has until now been a Web 2.0 darling.

FriendFeed claims that it has gained the most traction among the new 'lifestreaming' aggregation services, which include Plaxo, Iminta, Socialthing, Lifestream.fm and Zude. However, Facebook, MySpace and Google are all ahead in the battle to become the preferred aggregators of social data, which is crucial if they are to build any significant revenue streams.

FriendFeed, based in Mountain View, is close to Google’s headquarters and its four founders were once key players at Google. Paul Buchheit developed its Gmail email service with Sanjeev Singh. The two combined with venture capital firm Benchmark Capital to put $5m into their new company earlier this year to enable its public launch. Bret Taylor and Jim Norris, the other co-founders, created Google Maps. Not surprisingly, FriendFeed’s strategy has some resonances with Google’s mission to organise all of the world’s information.
 
FriendFeed works by aggregating all of a user’s online social networking activity into a feed or list of events from as many as 35 services, including, for example, SMS-style text ”tweet” from Twitter, photographs uploaded to the Flickr sharing service or blog notes. Data from web research company Hitwise estimates monthly unique visitors for FriendFeed at 150,000, with average time spent on the site at about 5-6 minutes so far.