This a contrarian view, and if I were betting on it I would put my chips in Dave Winer’s corner. That Facebook just bought FriendFeed for its genius, ex-Google Engineers, namely Paul Buchheit and Bret Taylor, and that the site will eventually die. Also he feels the users, and that’s an appropriate word, especially guys like Robert Scoble and Louis Gray who evangelized and put so much time and energy into the service, who really made the service, were used to build the audience and then sold down the river for 50 million, leaving many months of energy and data wasted. I get that. I would probably bet that’s what will in fact, take place.
But let’s pause for a moment. I’ve been noticing in the past couple of days after the acquisition that more people have suddenly started following me on FriendFeed. Now that may be anecdotal, but I was thinking that maybe we got this thing wrong. The facts are, as great of a service FriendFeed is, and I believe that it is the best Social Media experience on the web, they simply weren’t getting traction. They weren’t growing. Now I would argue that they should have just given it more time, but I’m not as smart as Paul Bucheit or Michael Arrington, and as I believe was mentioned in the ClueTrain Manifesto, the “build it and they will come” philosophy simply doesn’t work anymore. It takes many more dimensions now a days, especially that of timing. Perhaps if FriendFeed would have been build two years ago, it would have been the “Twitter” of now. Look at Bing. It’s supposed to be as good of a mouse trap as Google, but it’s too late. So now Microsoft has done a Yahoo deal to get more exposure.
The FriendFeed team are engineers, perhaps some of the best software engineers in the World, but perhaps they don’t have the skills of how to build a big, network effect audience. But now they’ve married the people who knew how to build the biggest audience in the world. Also, besides Gmail, Paul innovated and built some of Google’s advertising products. So he may also be an expert in search monetization, and perhaps the most qualified person in the world to figure out how to monetize Real Time Search. That’s just what Facebook is struggling with. They have the audience, and now they need a genius to figure out how to monetize it. This could be a perfect marriage, and the result could be not only a fantastically successful Facebook, but a better product and so better for the “users.”
Will FriendFeed continue as a stand alone site? Probably not. But there are strong paradigms in its favor. First, it is the best Social Media product in the market. It doesn’t have an audience or at least a big enough one. But now it’s getting exposure to 300 million other users. It doesn’t take a big percentage of those folks signing up for the service to make it viable in its own right. Also, as mentioned in the book “Free” by Chris Anderson, the costs of running such a website is halving each year. You combine those two synergistic principles and you may have a site that not only continues to run, but actually still be innovative and perhaps as much of a household name as Twitter is becoming.