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Could FriendFeed have crossed the chasm?

FriendFeed folds it up

FriendFeed folds it up

FriendFeed is now part of Facebook. For many of us FriendFeed users, this was quite a shock. We didn’t know exactly what FriendFeed’s future was, or how it was going to make money. But Twitter has set the current mental model of not worrying about such things. And in some ways, Amazon.com did the same in the 1990s with its grow-don’t-make-money strategy. In both cases, the companies persevered and are now enjoying mainstream success.

Rather than follow this model, FriendFeed sold itself to Facebook. Perhaps this is a case where the founders saw something we didn’t. After all, for every Twitter and Amazon, there are thousands of startups that don’t make it.

But given the heavy attention and usage of FriendFeed by the technology Early Adopter crowd, it’s worth examining this:

Could FriendFeed have crossed the chasm?

I’m referring, of course, to Geoffrey Moore’s classic and still-relevant book where he examines the challenges of moving from the Early Adopters to the Early Majority segments in the technology adoption cycle:

Crossing the Chasm

The biggest issue is that what appeals to Early Adopters doesn’t work for the Early Majority. If you’ve tracked public reaction to FriendFeed, doesn’t that sound familiar?

In Moore’s book, he counsels that companies need to establish a toehold in the Early Majority segment by focusing on a vertical niche. Let’s use that approach in examining FriendFeed’s options.

FriendFeed’s Early Majority Options

In the table below, I’ve come up with six possible use cases that might have been bases for breaking into the Early Majority. Each use case has a potential Early Majority niche noted. And each use case has one or more existing competitors listed:

FriendFeed Early Majority Options

Let’s analyze things by use case…

Company public groups: In this use case, companies set up shop on FriendFeed, with their own groups filled with content. PepsiCo set up one, called Pepsi Cooler. The idea is a stream of content produced by a team from Pepsi. If you look at the stream, it’s primarily tweets.

If FriendFeed had decided to pursue this option, it needed to create points of permanence on the page. Having just a stream of content makes it hard to establish objects that focus on your brand and let’s you run events. Creating an experience like this was something that would have given FriendFeed groups more value.

Alternatives? Companies run their websites, upgraded with social media streams of content. And Facebook has really pushed this with its pages effort. Facebook’s 200+ million members gives it a big leg up here.

This would have been a tough one to break into the Early Majority, as Facebook really owns this niche. The easy ability to stream content would have been FriendFeed’s advantage.

Collaboration spaces: Let employees work together on projects in their own private groups. Content can be streamed in certainly, but more important, people can post things directly into a collaboration space. Teams can comment on posted items to advance projects. Documents can be included in posts, letting the same version be accessed by everyone. Direct messages can be sent to one another.

In June of 2008, I wrote Using FriendFeed Rooms for Work: What’s Needed? In it, I argued that FriendFeed could be used for getting work done in teams. I saw some things I’d want there: better “stickiness” for current projects and documents. Can’t have everything fly by in a stream. Also, accept RSS feeds of document changes from Google Docs, Zoho and other cloud office productivity apps. Chris Brogan saw the potential too in a post from August 2008,  How to Use Friendfeed as a Collaborative Business Tool.

Collaborative business apps are an area of overall growth, but one that is filled with competition. Atlassian  has been delivering this for a while with its Confluence wiki, and Basecamp is a favorite small business collaboration tool. More recent entrants like SocialCast have added activity streams as part of their core functionality.

FriendFeed could have been a strong player here, but it needed a lot of focused feature development.

Social web monitoring: This is my use case. FriendFeed has a marvelous way of handling RSS feeds into separate groups, and managing people and groups into separate lists. I found these to be quite helpful for staying on top conversations and content that is getting attention. I actively monitor three groups formed specifically to be my “news tickers” on the social web. I don’t use them as communities for conversations, but as information management tools.

The real-time feature is great for this purpose. As soon as something is made available via RSS, or in Twitter’s case it’s posted, you’d see it show up in your groups. I find this to be highly valuable for jumping into conversations on Twitter, and to understand what’s buzzing now.

FriendFeed doesn’t have the powerful analytics and structure of the new premium Social CRM apps. I’d argue that for SMBs, that’s not needed. What’s needed is an ability to stay on top of topics and conversations relevant to your industry. ReadWriteWeb’s Marshall Kirkpatrick was seeing the same thing in How FriendFeed Could Become the Ultimate Social Media Tracking Service.

To my mind, this is the use case that was most promising relative to unmet need and dearth of competition. And FriendFeed had great technological advantages here in terms of its SUP work and real-time updating. Feels like an opportunity missed.

Real-time conversations: When FriendFeed made the switch to real-time updating by default, one thing users gained was the ability to see new comments on threads without constantly refreshing the page. Thaty meant you could engage others easily on the page as people posted back-and-forth.

For live events, this is pretty fun. It’s great to share a common moment this way. Be it sports, political events or technology conferences. And that’s what makes me think the real-time conversation platform would be great for online media sites. Imagine CNN.com outfitted with real-time conversations by FriendFeed. News events are constantly, and always will be, unfolding. Giving site visitors a way to converse quickly with one another would be great. Admittedly, this real-time conversation flow is something that is already present for webcasts.

The limitation for the value of real-time conversations is (i) the existence of alternatives; (ii) limited utility for most people. Twitter isn’t real-time, but it doesn’t have to be. It’s a good-enough conversation platform with a large subscriber base. Forums will do the threading work for multiple participants. And the people that got the most use out of real-time were social media A-Listers who get a lot of comments on their threads. Most people don’t get that level of interaction. So the value of real-time conversations was lost on them.

Following friends’ activities: This was the original purpose of FriendFeed: “FriendFeed is a service that makes it easy to share with friends online. It offers a fun and interactive way to discover and discuss information among friends.” Makes sense…”friend”…”feed”.

The challenge is that it is quite RSS dependent on friends’ streams. Which means people need to have content available via RSS. That’s still a slowly growing dynamic. The other issue is similar to that described above for company public groups and collaboration spaces: lack of ability to create more permanent objects on your profile. If Friends don’t RSS, they need a good way to manage content they directly post.

This really is Facebook’s game. Once they added the ability to follow RSS feeds of friends, much of the rationale for FriendFeed was lost, at least in terms of following friends. There’s still a great use case in following people that may not qualify for the traditional definition of “friends”. But you can stay on top of the likes of Craig Newmark, Robert Scoble, and others.

Personal information management: If you participate in several different social sites, you can create a diverse amount of content: tweets, Flickr photos, blog posts, YouTube videos, SlideShare presentations, etc. As you create it, you want to be able to reference it. The most obvious way to do that is to go to each site individually and search for some part of your content.

FriendFeed is marvelous for managing all the different content in one place. This is something I talked about recently in Three Reasons You Need to Be on FriendFeed *Now*. One place for all your content, with amazing search capabilities. Much better than what Twitter offers. With FriendFeed, you can actually access old tweets via search.

This use case is great, but it’s ability to penetrate the Early Majority is questionable, at least for now. It takes people who have these diverse social sites where they’re posting content. As we know from the 1-9-90 rule of participation, the number of people actively posting new content is still relatively low. But as social sites proliferate, I believe you’ll see increased numbers of people posting original content. 1-9-90 may apply to any one site, but viewed from a portfolio perspective, the ratio will be higher for the general population.

Am I missing something?

Those are the use cases that come to my mind. What do you think? Did I miss some important ones? And how about the assessments I made for each of the use cases? On target?

My own thought is that FriendFeed had a great opportunity for social web monitoring. It’s an area of growing interest, and FriendFeed had the technology and raw feeds to be a big player there. More and more, the mainstream is interested in the workings of and information available on social media.

Let’s see if Facebook sees a similar opportunity.

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My Ten Favorite Tweets – Week Ending 052209

From the home office in Cleveland, Ohio…

#1: One thing I like in what FriendFeed is doing…they’re thinking in terms of business use cases. See Tudor’s comments: http://bit.ly/BEXQd

#2: FriendFeed provides better tweet search than does Twitter, notes @louisgray http://bit.ly/WFyYA

#3: Reading: Nine worst social media fails of 2009… thus far by @mediaphyter http://bit.ly/vvKS0 Two girls, one sandwich? Really?

#4: Bit.ly’s lead developer @nathanfolkman provides insight as to why bit.ly’s click counts can be significantly overstated: http://bit.ly/IgImp

#5: WSJ – Look at This Article. It’s One of Our Most Popular http://bit.ly/Era5b Problem w/ simple popularity – may not mean merit or relevance.

#6: Post on the Front End of Innovation blog: General Mills 5-Step Innovation Program http://bit.ly/ghqhr #feiboston

#7: Post on the Front End of Innovation blog: Great Companies Enable Constant Choices – Jim Collins http://bit.ly/RFWWM #feiboston

#8: This is hilarious – Tweeting Too Hard: A site for shaming the twitteringly self-important http://bit.ly/PCzTD

#9: Anyone remember the 70s song, Escape (The Pina Colada Song)? Happened in real life to one married couple: http://bit.ly/171wjg

#10: Took my 5 y.o. son to a pet store today, where he saw his first chameleon live. Damn thing zapped a cricket w/ its tongue. My boy loved it.

My Ten Favorite Tweets – Week Ending 042409

From the home office in Detroit, Michigan…

#1: CNN.com poll asks, “Do you use Twitter?” 331k respondents. 7% yes. 63% no. 30% “what’s Twitter?”

#2: Hey bloggers – make sure your twitter handle is somewhere on your blogs. I like to tweet a link with your Twitter handle. Easy visibility.

#3: My Twitter personality: renowned spamming cautious My style: garrulous academic ROBOT http://twanalyst.com/bhc3 {ROBOT? Say what?}

#4: Great tips about social media releases for companies on @mediaphyter‘s blog by @serena http://bit.ly/s3wQy

#5: Reading: “Don’t cut back on innovation” in Fortune by Anne Mulcahy, Xerox CEO http://bit.ly/OZWHn

#6: Interested in using enterprise 2.0 for innovation? Read this wonderful post by @ITSinsider “Putting 2.0 to Work: Spigit” http://bit.ly/N53bN

#7: With Oracle’s acq of Sun and MySQL, does PostgreSQL now merit a closer look? http://bit.ly/2B8u3q

#8: Fascinating study of high performance work teams. They equally mix advocacy w/ asking & external/internal focus http://bit.ly/qNDtH

#9: Congrats to Ryan Hall, 3rd place in today’s Boston Marathon (2:09:40). Gutsy race he ran today. http://bit.ly/1ay6BF

#10: It was 91 degrees today in San Francisco, & we felt every one of those degrees at my 5 y.o. son’s birthday party. Fun, but smokin’.

My Ten Favorite Tweets – Week Ending 041709

From the home office at Twitter headquarters in San Francisco…

#1: Our long national nightmare is over… @aplusk is the first to hit 1 million Twitter followers http://bit.ly/qMUDN

#2: Watching Larry King show about Twitter. Sean Puffy Combs stresses that if you want followers, you have to have something to say.

#3: My co-worker just noted that @oprah ‘s first tweet was all CAPS. No need to shout!

#4: One thought about the celebrity attention Twitter is now getting. Watch for increased spammers creating accounts to @reply us to death.

#5: Reading: Purpose-Driven Social Media is Key to Elusive ROI http://bit.ly/18voKY by @MiaD

#6: New Spigit blog post: Corporate Innovation Is Not a Popularity Contest http://bit.ly/27omc7

#7: http://twitpic.com/3c9y9 – Noting this for posterity…my blog hit top 10K in Technorati. Even got a little badge.

#8: My son Harrison turns 5 tomorrow. I’m making a card for him with PowerPoint, iPhone pix, Google images and my HP color printer.

#9: The marshmallow Easter peeps…I find myself not sure I’m really loving them as I eat one, but then I strangely crave another right after.

#10: When you hear Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin'”, do you think of The Sopranos, or the Facebook crew’s video in Cyprus?

My Ten Favorite Tweets – Week Ending 041009

From the home office off the coast of Somalia…

#1: “Never call yourself an expert. Let others think and talk about you as an expert.” http://bit.ly/1yBftl by @centernetworks

#2: RT @dhinchcliffe: Top Five Innovation Killers http://bit.ly/2abnVG Also, #6 – Inability to tap into existing innovation sources

#3: A very interesting read, a useful perspective: Social Architecture http://bit.ly/qynjR #e2.0

#4: @kentnewsome Vista ribbons are almost like re-arranging the keyboard away from qwerty.

#5: Fallout from Twimailer failing to support its emails…I stopped getting both follow and DM notifications. Recommend quitting Twimailer now!

#6: My colleague confirms the social media “dead zone”. He said server traffic at Friendster used to plummet between 12 – 6 pm PT.

#7: Finding myself starting to use Google Tasks more. Biggest hurdle is making it part of my daily routine. It’s happening though.

#8: Marketers’ use of social media, in preferred order: Twitter, blogs, LinkedIn, Facebook http://bit.ly/sH3P

#9: You know those 404 pages that display when a web page isn’t found? They should all be this good: http://bit.ly/2iytO2 (via @mattcutts)

#10: Want more followers? I imagine there are tweets guaranteed to get new followers. Try: “I need some help with social media.”

My Ten Favorite Tweets – Week Ending 022709

From the home office in Denver, Colorado…

#1: Please, I don’t want your automated DMs after I follow you. This practice needs to stop. I never click your links, it’s just spam.

#2: To all you social media whales doing the mass unfollow routine, I say: “Go ahead, make my day.” Got my unfollow trigger finger ready.

#3: Reading @loic post about the realities of following thousands http://bit.ly/CR6A9 Future = Dunbar’s Number + @replies + keyword tracking?

#4: Yammer rolls out new features: lifestreaming a la FriendFeed, and DM like Twitter. VentureBeat: http://bit.ly/qamnq

#5: “Discovering problems actually requires as much creativity as discovering solutions” The Myths of Innovation, Scott Berkun

#6: Innovation myth inside companies: “if the idea were any good, the people at the top would have thought of it already.” http://bit.ly/CfPgl

#7: FriendFeed guys have created the FriendFeed Therapy Room, featuring Eliza http://bit.ly/LseaI See if you can get past her therapist tenacity

#8: Do you suppose accident rates are down in California now that we’ve banned cell phones in the car? Do you feel safer?

#9: My favorite Jelly Belly beans: 1. coffee 2. watermelon. My 4.y.o. son Harrison: smelly skunk (betcha didn’t know about that one). You?

#10: Driving down 101, behind this car. Smelled an odd sweet odor that I recognized. Pass the car minutes later, sure enough dude had a fat one.

My Ten Favorite Tweets – Week Ending 022009

From the home office in Hollywood, CA…

#1: RT @THE_REAL_SHAQ To all twitterers , if u c me n public come say hi, we r not the same we r from twitteronia, we connect

#2: It’s not teams that get things done inside companies, it’s networks. #uvasna

#3: @jowyang writes about the bankruptcy of “social media” PR firms and vendors who fail to practice what they preach http://bit.ly/IcIG7

#4: Gonna tweet this one more time: Oasys raises $10M for low cost water desalination technology http://bit.ly/siwMG Much needed!

#5: Holy smoke! Just installed Power Twitter Firefox add-on http://bit.ly/yiy4W . Search on the home page, tab for Facebook updates, more. Whoa.

#6: Ma.gnolia throws in the towel, says it cannot recover its members’ bookmarks http://bit.ly/Qwcba

#7: Reading case studies about enterprise social networks and their impact by University of Virginia professor Rob Cross: http://bit.ly/sL4HL

#8: For the record, according to Typealizer, my blog screams a Myer-Briggs personality of INTJ. That’s about right, actually. Nicely done.

#9: My post about integrating social media into product marketing is up on Social Computing Magazine: http://bit.ly/sNMBl

#10: Watching Sally Field on TV in Brothers & Sisters. Is she seriously 62? Looks a lot younger. Must be that Boniva.

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