Last month when Twitter appeared to have suffered its worst downtime to date, many bloggers proposed that it would be delivered its final death blow by FriendFeed. Twitter survived, just as it did a year ago when it was also proposed that Pownce could be a destroyer.
More recently Steve Rubel wrote that FriendFeed is a threat to Google. He claims that FriendFeed's "social contextual search" addresses a large Google weakness -- an inability to provide results based on trusted content. He also makes the point that the life stream could be disruptive to giant Google's advertising approach.
Though Rubel didn't call FriendFeed a killer, the notion of social media tool "murder" seems to be rampant. Every time a new site pops up it is considered a killer of something. But FriendFeed, while it may steal some mind share, is not killing anything -- nor is that its goal.
"FriendFeed and Twitter are very different products," said Paul Buchheit, co-founder of FriendFeed. "When Twitter was having reliability concerns the addicted users were looking for a savior. Then came a whole burst of blog posts on how we were going to kill Twitter and Facebook and even Google itself. We are not trying to kill anything."
Buchheit says that the company's design philosophy at the very core is to get the most out of basic yet useful features and continue to improve upon them. There is nothing in FriendFeed's roadmap that specifically targets other companies nor does it attach anything to the vision of those companies.
"We're focused on making FriendFeed really good at doing what it does and not trying to take on any giant targets," he said. "People have this notion that a company can clone a competitor but it does not work that way. Clones are not as good as the original. FriendFeed is building something new and it will take a little while to build up a new space."
The latest Compete numbers show this as truth -- FriendFeed is not a Twitter killer. While Buchheit says that the site is not yet releasing numbers, Compete shows FriendFeed's total user base at just over 300K with a month-to-month growth rate of 45.6 percent. Twitter's growth rate is slower -- 14.7 percent -- but it is also much bigger, boasting an estimated 1.7 million users.
As FriendFeed continues to grow its user base, to Rubel's point, the company's foundation of trusted content from friends does provide an opportunity to reshape the way advertisers look at Web presence. If FriendFeed were to improve upon the combined approach of Google AdWords and Facebook's social ads and base it all on recommended content, the model could prove quite lucrative. While Buchheit acknowledges the opportunity for ad revenue he says that it's a long way off.
"It'll be a little while until advertising is the right thing for us to do. Right now we're defining and refining the product," he said. "It is something we think about and talk about among ourselves, but we'll need to do some experimentation around what is relevant and complementary as well as profitable."
One of the refinements that FriendFeed is considering is overcoming the redundancy issue. For example, if I bookmark an article to del.icio.us and it pops in my life stream, then several people in my network do the same, my feed gets cluttered with the same article over and over.
"We've been thinking about redundancy from the beginning," Buchheit said. "But we've also been hesitant to disturb the sharing and conversational dynamic but we are exploring different UIs that could resolve the issue."
To that point, one of the advantages that FriendFeed has is its rapid time-to-market with new features. In the last few weeks the site introduced user blocking, "best of" rankings for friends' content and introduced services to its "rooms."
"We want to maintain the personal nature for discussions, so we are trying to make FriendFeed continue to grow while still providing each person his or her own community," Buchheit said.
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(Paul Buchheit image provided by FriendFeed)