It’s amazing how unpredictable the “Sillicon Valley Tipping Point” is. Last year, it was Twitter. Around the same time, Facebook. Then before that, YouTube. And before that, MySpace. And if you can remember that far back, Friendster had its moment too. FriendFeed — which I reviewed last month — and at that time seemed to me like any other Web 2.0 awesome service but go-nowhere baloney, is going through one right now. And as people talk, the tipping point becomes clearer and clearer.
Duncan Riley calls the service “othing more than a fancy RSS service with commenting thrown in for good measure.” Louis Gray will defend it for his life. Marshall Kirkpatrick, who is clearly one of the more informed on this topic from his interesting interview with Dave Winer, considers the service useful but acknowledges that — ironically so — there a number of very similar services that have launched at the same time, including SocialThing and Iminta (our review here.) Michael Arrington acknowledges its tipping point and calls its a “destination site built on the back of all that third party data.”
The idea behind FriendFeed? On the one side, services like YouTube and Last.fm catalogue omy media habits. And then there are services like Digg and Delicious and Google Reader (or any RSS reader for that matter), who know what kind of stuff I’m into and what I’m reading. Recently, I’ve been finding that most of my online life revolves around three services: Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook. All three have a strong sense of a community and a user base constantly feeding stuff into them. FriendFeed’s objective: combine ALL my data across ALL services into one, single stream. And build a social network around it.
And you know what? I think it’s a nobrainer. The more I think about it, the more obvious a service like FriendFeed seems to me, and what seems more obvious is the question that why I don’t use them instead of going through my 15 bookmarks to see what everyone is up to. After using Tumblr for my reblogging needs (YouTube, Digg, Twitter, etc.), I’ve recently made the decision to using it solely for its purpose — text and media blogging — and point everyone single-handedly to my FriendFeed page to keep up with my life. And the more people that use it, the easier my life is going to get in getting people to follow my life in one place.
Unlike most of the services we’ve seen lately, I think what makes FriendFeed super-useful is that the service literally needs no action (or interaction) from the user to make it work. You don’t have to Twitter, or Digg, or rate videos, or blog, or review stuff. Instead, you can do all that as you’ve been doing so and continue to live your Internet life like you’ve been in the past. And what FriendFeed does is simply catalogue it in one place. It’s more of a aggregation tool — and something you’d read in your coffee break — and a less of a service you actually have to feed into and get something out of.
But of course, if all I’m using FriendFeed for is to broadcast my life stream, I’m only getting half the show. It’s equally as useful to keep up with your network of friends — you know, your pals, collegues, the people that follow you on services like Twitter whom you care about. For example, the only Robert Scoble I know of is the one who I follow on Twitter and occassionally read the blog of. With FriendFeed, I get to see the complete Robert Scoble. I can see the videos he publishes and favourites, the photos he posts, the stuff he shares on Google Reader, and his activity from about 10 other services — including of course, his blog and Twitter. If we discount the “why I would care” aspect, the value proposition to me as user is really amazing — take no action, and get the world in return.
A couple of FriendFeed’s features to me really validate its greatness. Firstly, it’s their recommended friends feature. This is something I’ve truly never seen work as it should with other services, and with FriendFeed, it’s their most important feature in their viral growth. Why? It’s great for the user, and FriendFeed. The feature basically goes through your network and finds links between people, suggesting a bunch of people you’re likely to know and befriend. I’ve added about 50 people through this and I continue to add more — because the click on the “Subscribe” button and its loading speed makes it more of a game for me (Who do you know?) and less of a chore. Secondly, as TechCrunch reports, they just launched a search feature. And now, you can search through your network. This is equally as useful — for example, when I want to see what my network is saying about the Sarah Lacy incident.
FriendFeed is not the new Twitter. It’s not the new Facebook. It’s certainly not the next Google. But what it is, is a kickass aggregation service. It’s to people and relationships and online activity what Techmeme is to tech news. And the fact that I don’t have to take any action on the service itself, or put up with ads, or pay for it, I can’t see why I wouldn’t want to at least have it aggregate my activity while I’m getting on with my regular Twitters and Diggs and YouTubes. As I said, the value proposition is what makes it truly amazing.