A community searching for a home

The big news all over the intertubes yesterday was Facebook’s acquisition of FriendFeed, a life-stream aggregator and discussion platform. Reactions were all over the place, from “Congrats! This is a great move for you guys!” to “Whatever, it makes financial sense…” to “Oh NoESssss!!! 1 <3 FF!1!! Fb is the worsts!!1!!!11!eleventy!!1!” The move prompted immediate debate amongst the science community and even spurred one member to quit FF 3 hours later, though all the lamenting might be premature. Paul Buchheit, one of FF’s developers, assured everyone that FF users and community would be treated right.

Still, it’s hard not to let the imagination run rampant with thoughts of a Facebook+FriendFeed frankenstein (FriendBook? FaceFeed? FriendFace?). Sean Percival created a nice mock of what such a mashup might look like (go to his page to see full size):

Jokes aside, there’s a chance that whatever solution is presented for current FF users will not satisfy a large fraction of us. For one thing, Facebook is oriented around fundamentally different goals than FriendFeed. Facebook is about connecting to people you share some some relationship with – you went to school together, work for the same company, are family members, etc – and letting them know what’s going on in your life, no matter how banal. That’s fine, and serves that purpose well. FriendFeed, however, has always been less about who you already know and what you’re doing, and more about what you think and what you find interesting. These connections made through common activities and interests online are real and often help initiate connections in the physical world. Facebook, in the eyes of many hardcore FF users, is that awkward high school reunion while FriendFeed is the stimulating group of people you met as part of the XYZ club in college.

Already, a FF group has spawned to discuss the details behind developing an open source version of FriendFeed. It will be interesting to see what they come up with, but just as interesting will be to observe the real-time development of a dynamic grassroots effort.

Cameron also has a great post outlining the differences between Facebook and FriendFeed, and the major directions the science/research community could take from here.