FriendFeed-ing Frenzy

It has been a rough stretch for Twitter. Despite another influx of funding, continued downtime and issues with terms of service policies served as a final straw from some members of the community. Where Twitter seems to have held off Jaiku and Pownce, it is an uber-aggregator of microcontent—FriendFeed—that has become the destination of choice among disgruntled twitterers.

Launched last October, FriendFeed serves as aggregator, forum and platform for people spread across multiple content streams. Each member controls her own publications, leveraging whatever social networks are already in place (such as Flickr, Google Reader, YouTube and Twitter). Others subscribe to that feed, bringing that content into a stream with others. It doesn’t replace Twitter, but for some it may seem a better place to consume similar information.

FriendFeed is a social content aggregator
FriendFeed is a social content aggregator

Built by veteran Google developers who contributed to the release of Gmail and Google Maps, FriendFeed offers a few interesting wrinkles.

You can keep track of your friends that don’t use FriendFeed by creating “imaginary friends.” This is an important bit of functionality since the service has not yet achieved a critical mass. I used Internet Duct Tape’s Twitter importer to upgrade my info stream, only to discover about 90% of the members I follow are not using FriendFeed. Since that IDT utility doesn’t automatically create those phantom accounts, my FriendFeed is mostly composed of uber-users and early adopters.

The service offers embedded content widgets and custom rooms, which allow streams to form around a topic or smaller community. It attaches a comment thread to each specific item in the stream, an improvement over Twitter since content and rhetoric are more easily separated. Some bloggers are even migrating blog comments to FriendFeed. Like Twitter and many other modern web services, FriendFeed now offers an API to promote third-party application development.

A new AIR desktop application for FriendFeed
Feedalizr: A new AIR desktop application for FriendFeed

The migration from Twitter is being aided by the creation of a new AIR application, Feedalizr. Not only does it follow conventions for information streams established by the likes of Twitterrific and other desktop clients, it also has some handy publishing tools that allow posting of tweets, links and images. The desktop client, first launched on April 11, recently added a video publisher to create on-the-fly video messages. More importantly, it includes the ambient property of Twitterrific notifications in the form of toasters, Growl-like pop-ups alerting the user to new content.

Other AIR applications are available, too, most notably Twhirl, MySocial, and Alert Thingy. They all serve to make members less reliant on the web interface built by the company.

Despite the number of tweets about a mass migration, Twitter still has community and constraint in its favor. FriendFeed serves a useful purpose, but it is arguably a different one (aggregation, conversation) than Twitter (phatic communication).

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