Will FriendFeed Be Able To Reach The Mainstream Internet User? - InformationWeek

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Infrastructure // PC & Servers
Commentary
1/3/2009
02:14 PM
Allen Stern
Allen Stern
Commentary
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Will FriendFeed Be Able To Reach The Mainstream Internet User?

This weekend there has been a lot of chatter about FriendFeed and where the service needs to move to grow out of its core user base of early adopters. For those of you who haven't tried FriendFeed, think of it as a new-style forum based on a person's activity across the Web.

This weekend there has been a lot of chatter about FriendFeed and where the service needs to move to grow out of its core user base of early adopters. For those of you who haven't tried FriendFeed, think of it as a new-style forum based on a person's activity across the Web.If you've followed my coverage of FriendFeed on CenterNetworks, you know that I think it's a "conversation stealer." This means that FriendFeed takes away most of the conversation that could have taken place on the content source. For purposes of this discussion, let's leave that issue on the side.

Louis Gray has a lengthy discussion about what he believes FriendFeed needs to do to "grow and keep new users." Gray discusses items including: creating a lite version for new users, offering an iPhone application, and that FriendFeed should do more outreach with inactive users. He also notes that FriendFeed needs to do a better job explaining what the service actually does. I completely agree with this last statement from Gray and I would offer up the "content aggregator and message board" concept for discussion. As for Gray's other points, they are solid points for helping to stay (and grow to some extent) in the same user base that FriendFeed is in currently. I am not sold that any of his suggestions will help FriendFeed grow past its current user set.

Some wonder if FriendFeed is too confusing for the average Internet user to understand. It took Robert Scoble over 20 minutes to explain how the service works and once he was done I needed an antacid. Gray's concept of a "lite" version may help the overwhelming feeling for new users.

Stowe Boyd takes a look at the traffic patterns on both FriendFeed and Twitter. The comparisons between Twitter and FriendFeed have gone on since the day FriendFeed launched. Boyd notes, "These are not direct competitors in that they don't have exactly the same feature sets, but they are for all intents and purposes. Very few people participate actively in both." I have always said the complete opposite. Twitter and FriendFeed are not competitors except that there are users who use both. Boyd goes on to talk about how FriendFeed appears to be intimidating to people. He concludes by suggesting that FriendFeed might be acquired this year by a company like AOL or LinkedIn or they will close up without any growth past the current user base.

The comparisons to Twitter need to stop, and stop now. FriendFeed is not the same as Twitter. Twitter offers a box where you say what you are doing. FriendFeed attempts to aggregate all of your services together and allows you to view the same for your friends. I agree with Gray that FriendFeed must determine what it actually does and who the service caters to. Twitter has seen rapid growth because they do one thing and do it well. The tech user can push Twitter as far as they want while the average Internet user can just update their friends on what they are doing. How many mainstream Internet users really have enough services to care about FriendFeed? And how many of those users have friends who also have enough services to care about FriendFeed?

I am still not sold that FriendFeed will hit the mainstream even if it makes all of the changes that Gray or Boyd suggest. We haven't even discussed the fact that FriendFeed isn't generating any revenue and appears to have no visible business plan as of yet.

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