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FriendFeed Will Make Switching Social Networks Easier

There has been quite a lot of coverage for the FriendFeed service. FriendFeed aggregates updates from a variety of other social networks and Web 2.0 apps, such as Twitter, Flickr, Jaiku, LinkedIn, YouTube, etc. TechCrunch’s Michael Arrington reports that FriendFeed just added a search capability, making it “suddenly feel like a destination site”. The service is growing and improving.

Aside from aggregating your feeds, you can subscribe to the aggregated feeds of others. You “friend” others the same way to do with Twitter. Just subscribe to their FriendFeed. They don’t approve your subscription, you just do it. FriendFeed is essentially a social network in its own right, allowing users to post comments and share feeds amongst friends.

Which got to me thinking…the emergence of FriendFeed and other “networks of social networks” is going to make switching services a lot easier for individuals. And that’s going to make life harder for the social networks.

Here’s what I mean. I signed up for FriendFeed. I added several other services to which I belong: Twitter, Google Reader, LinkedIn, Pandora and del.icio.us. Suddenly, I see my updates all in one place. That, by itself, is pretty cool.

I then subscribed to the FriendFeeds of others. Robert Scoble is an active FriendFeed guy, by virtue of his involvement in every other social network and Web 2.0 service out there. It’s pretty interesting to see what he’s up to and what he’s commenting on.

Then I notice something. I’m seeing Scoble’s Jaiku updates (Jaiku is a competitor to Twitter).

Jaiku? I don’t belong to Jaiku!

And this is how these social network aggregators are going to change things. On Twitter, I can subscribe to others’ Twitter posts. For example, I subscribe to Scoble’s Twitter updates. But to subscribe to Scoble’s Twitter updates, you need to join Twitter. Through FriendFeed, that’s no longer the case. You can follow anything Scoble puts up on his FriendFeed: Twitter, Jaiku, Pownce, and others.

So here’s how this unfolds. You and your friends join FriendFeed. You’re all on Twitter. You love the ease and carefree way you can post updates to Twitter. Your friends on Twitter see your updates, either on Twitter or on FriendFeed. But after a while, you decide the features of Jaiku are even better – you make the switch to Jaiku.

Normally, the switch to Jaiku from Twitter would be disruptive. Your Twitter-using friends no longer see your updates, and you can no longer see theirs. The pain of this disruption is a form of lock-in, as the value of switching does not equal the costs of doing so (see In Praise of Inertia: MyYahoo #1 for more discussion on this topic).

But with FriendFeed, the cost of switching social networks nears zero. Whether I post updates on Twitter, Jaiku, Pownce or Google Talk, my friends will see them on FriendFeed. There is a loss of the the ability to talk back to your friends directly on their different service, but FriendFeed lets you post comments on any update of your friends.

This is great for the individual, expanding the choices for different services. And it puts more pressure on social network and web service apps to continually improve their features and user experience. Otherwise, users will easily switch to a better service.

Lookout social networks and web services – the lifestream aggregators are coming.

UPDATE: Sarah Perez of ReadWriteWeb has a March 20, 2008 post up entitled “The Conversation Has Left the Blogosphere“.  In it, she observes that blog comments may ultimately migrate to lifestream aggregators, such as FriendFeed.  This thought is another variation on the idea that the lifestream cloud becomes the community, replacing the apps-based communities we know today.

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Facebook Beacon Is Dead. Long Live Amazon Grapevine.

Amazon has just come out with two new Facebook apps, as reported by Erick Schonfeld on TechCrunch. One is Amazon Giver, which lets friends share wish lists. The other is Amazon Grapevine, which lets you broadcast your activities on Amazon back to the Facebook newsfeed.

Pardon me…but isn’t that the basis of Facebook Beacon? Well, sort of. There are a few differences.

Amazon made this completely opt-in, which differs from the opt-out philosophy of Beacon. Also, product purchases are not included in Grapevine, but they were an important part of Beacon.

Personally, Beacon doesn’t bother me that much. I did not experience the early versions of Beacon with the too-fast notice that popped up on e-tailers’ sites. No accidentally revealing an engagement ring purchase. But there are times a purchase says something about you.

In fact, I think the idea of sharing your purchases with your friends has a lot of interesting potential. I can think of three different reasons people would share purchase information with friends and check out what their friends have purchased:

  1. Self-expression
  2. Product discovery
  3. Friends’ reviews

I’ve mapped those reasons to several different retail sectors.

  • Apparel = self-expression
  • Computer Hardware/Software = friends’ reviews
  • Consumer Electronics = friends’ reviews, self-expression
  • Home & Garden = self-expression, friends’ reviews
  • Sporting Goods = self-expression, friends’ reviews
  • Baby Products = product discovery, friends’ reviews

For instance, I think broadcasting your Apparel purchases is more a form of self-expression. People’s fashion tastes are an extension of themselves. Participation in some sort of Beacon-like program for Consumer Electronics, on the other hand, would be a chance to provide reviews to friends and read the reviews of your friends. And Baby Products would have a lot of discovery and reviews. See what your friends have purchased for their infants. Anyone who is a first-time parent knows the challenges of figuring out what to buy.

But, Beacon is still controversial, and Amazon doesn’t go as far as broadcasting purchases. So for now, we broadcast our ratings and reviews. This is pretty good. I can learn a lot from that.

The only problem is, the opportunities to share this way are still quite limited. Not too many e-tailers are doing this yet. However, Amazon has a rich history of driving innovation in e-tail. It was the early leader in e-tail. It was among the first to set up an affiliate program (Amazon Associates). It pioneered product recommendations.

So now it’s experimenting with the sharing of product-related information on social networks. Probably won’t be long before other e-tailers get on board.

Facebook Fatigue: Ten Reasons

TechCrunch has a post up, “Facebook Fatigue? Visitors Level Off in the U.S.” It appears the number of visitors to Facebook has stopped its inexorable growth, and even declined in January. This is newsworthy because that’s a real change in the trendline. Facebook has been on a tear the past couple years.

I personally enjoy Facebook very much. I check it a couple times a day, and I have activities and apps I like there. But I see some of the issues that afflict the site. Below are ten reasons for Facebook fatigue.

1. Friend activity junk mail: I love seeing all the things my friends do. I hate seeing all the things my friends do.

2. App invite spam: Yeah, too much of this. There are apps you really like, and apps that force invites. More of the former, less of the latter.

3. Lame apps: I got an email from “Compare Friends” detailing my “highest rated friends”. Inane.

4. Non-friend friends: LinkedIn is great for professional networks. Facebook is really best for friends. Adding non-friend friends reduces your interest in “keepin’ it real”. [UPDATE: Robert Scoble, with 5,000 “friends”, expresses his lost interest in Facebook]

5. Is that all there is? Tons of apps. But the killer activity on Facebook hasn’t yet emerged. Amend that…the killer activity for the new joiners (> 30 y.o.) of the past year hasn’t emerged.

6. Backlash by the under-25 set: For the younger crowd, maybe the growth of the over-30 crowd has killed the cool vibe. MySpace making a comeback? Bebo growing?

7. Backlash on the under-25 management conceit: It’s true that Facebook came from college kids. But too much blah-blah about how they really “get it” sours the older folks.

8. Stop the presses: Is it possible for there to be too much media coverage? Facebook, and its ecosystem get a lot (e.g. Slide’s $500mm valuation). Too much talk about how members are making these companies rich.

9. Inevitable bumps: Beacon. Scoble raising hell over lack of contact portability. Inability to delete your account. Competitors’ responses (LinkedIn changes, MySpace API, etc.)

10. Heat always dissipates: Hard to stay hot forever. Google’s been the closest thing to that.

Let’s remember that Facebook still draws massive numbers of users, and continues to drive a lot of discussion and innovation. They’ve got money and smart folks there. Looking at the list above, several are within the control of the company.

As Mark Twain said, “The report of my death is an exaggeration”.

Feed the Beast

My initial foray into blogging. Not sure what form it will take, nor can I establish a consistent theme for it. But the most important thing is to…

FEED THE BEAST

Blogs generally will not get much readership. Sad fact. This one may be lucky to get anyone beyond myself. But I know for sure that if the you maintain minimal content, infrequently updated, NO ONE will ever bother. So you need to keep the posts going. Just post, baby! If you do it enough, you’ll find your blog “voice”.

The great thing about Twitter is that it’s quite easy to build up content with those 140-character posts. Don’t overthink it, just type and go. And a hat tip to a blogger I’ve never read before today, Andrew Shuttleworth. His post about just getting going was an inspiration for me to just start writing.

Now, can I hook up my Twitter feeds to post here…?