Why I Do Not Like the Acquisition of FriendFeed by Facebook

FaceFeedNote: The following post is not written in my usual role as an information management software industry analyst. Rather, it is made as just another user of social networking technology and a member of the FriendFeed community.

On December 26 1919, the Boston Red Sox did the unthinkable — they sold Babe Ruth to their arch-rivals, the New York Yankees. The reaction to that transaction was profound and long-lasting (especially if you believed in The Curse.) In an instant, the game of baseball was changed forever.

A similar event occurred yesterday, when Facebook announced that it had acquired FriendFeed. To say that the two were arch-rivals is highly inaccurate. Facebook has over 250 million registered users while the FriendFeed community numbered just under 1 million. However, the immediate reaction by the majority of FriendFeed members appeared to be as passionate and anguished as those of Red Sox fans in 1919.

I learned of the acquisition just a few minutes after it had been announced, and my initial reaction was decidedly negative.



I was not alone. An informal poll conducted by a FriendFeed member indicates that 76% of respondents did not like the Facebook + FriendFeed combination.


Most of the comments I saw on FriendFeed communicated a sense of not just shock and disappointment, but of betrayal. How could the FriendFeed team sell out the community to Facebook?! Many FriendFeed members said that they had avoided Facebook intentionally and did not have an account on the service (myself included). Others indicated that they had Facebook accounts, but had let them fall inactive.

So why the strong negative reaction to the acquisition? I cannot speak for other FriendFeed members, but I can and will share my perspective:

  • FriendFeed has an open philosophy and design; Facebook locks everything down (requires membership and has granular privacy settings)
  • FriendFeed is an aggregator of content from other sites; Facebook is a walled garden
  • FriendFeed = early adopter technology community; Facebook = friends, family, and institutional colleagues
  • FriendFeed is about conversations; Facebook is about applications
  • FriendFeed has no ads and very little spam; Facebook is filled with spam and advertising
  • FriendFeed rapidly innovates new, requested functionality; Facebook has copied many of FriendFeed’s innovations

I can sum up my objections in a single sentence:

The eventual shutdown of FriendFeed will force me to move to a platform that has unwanted noise and features, is populated mostly by people that I don’t care to interact with online, and has an operating philosophy with which I don’t agree, assuming I want to join Facebook just to continue using the great functionality that was provided by FriendFeed.

I established a Facebook account shortly after hearing about their acquisition of FriendFeed, but I honestly don’t expect to use it. I simply thought I should grab the real estate while I still could. I think I will spend more time on Twitter and wait to see to which service the early adopter technology community eventually migrates.

Am I (and the vast majority of FriendFeed members) over-reacting? Or am I right to not plan to embrace Facebook just to continue using the great functionality that FriendFeed pioneered? Please let me know what you think and why.

Update: I found the video below just after I originally posted this entry. The video is a great parody of the reaction that many of us had to the news that FriendFeed had been bought by Facebook. I hope no one is offended by the main character.


5 responses to “Why I Do Not Like the Acquisition of FriendFeed by Facebook

  1. Thanks for sharing. I myself have never used FriendFeed, but I use both Twitter and Facebook.

    I like the walled garden and granular permissions of FB. I feel more comfortable posting pictures of my kids with my friends and family. I refuse to use FB for any work related activity. It is my online community away from work. The FriendFeed capabilities would be a nice addition to FB.

    I do see your concern for the potential removal of FF. I live in Twitter from a work perspective and haven’t had the time to really decide if I should use FF.

    I think the key question is the future of FF as a stand-alone site. If it stays that way, then maybe everything will be okay. That decision is the critical one to track. With only 1 million users though, it may be a tough sell to keep it separate.


  2. “FB… is my online community away from work.” – Pie

    Couldn’t agree more! As a user of both FB and FriendFeed (who doesn’t link the two), I like my walled garden of FB. I fear the FriendFeed acquisition will lead to an open real-time searchable FB. I have an open Twitter, FriendFeed, and LinkedIn life… let me keep my one private community please!

  3. I’m afraid that I’m one of those folks that dabbled in FriendFeed, but never really “got it”. I consider myself to be fairly savvy when it comes to social media tools, and I see FF as a good aggregator, but never really took the time to go beyond that. I tend to have my “intellectual” discussions on my blog, my “hey, did you read this” discussion on Twitter, and my non-business “friends and family” discussions on FaceBook. FriendFeed just didn’t bring anything new to the table for my social media needs. So, I’m one of those folks in the social media world that probably drive you crazy about not taking advantage of a good resource when I had the chance… now, I may never know.

  4. When I heard the news I immediately felt like FriendFeed had cheated on me. After calming myself down I remembered “they’re a business”. Great news for FB and the FF team. Sucky for us.. unless FB is able to dazzle us. Doubt it.

  5. Larry – well, you know me, I’m on most of these services. FriendFeed is a service I’ve had an account on for some time now but don’t actually go there. I jumped in before it was much more than a Twitter alternative, and didn’t pursue the addition of groups, comments, etc., except from time to time. I pick up a steady stream of followers on FriendFeed however, as I publish from Twitter on through to FF.

    And for Facebook, I’ve taken a similar approach – I agree with you, it’s awfully noisy, and although I like the idea of the privacy settings and some of the “walled garden” aspects of FB, I don’t find FB all that comfortable for either personal OR work purposes, and am thinking about pruning my FB list to turn that into the more personal online interactions.

    Will Facebook fold FriendFeed inside the wall or flip it all around? Given the noise they’ve made in wanting to take on Twitter more directly as competitors OR as an acquisition, my gut feeling is that it would be wisest for them to pursue a dual-market strategy – own the “walled garden” AND the “public conversation” spaces – and make it easy for those who want to join the two, to live in both worlds, simply and elegantly.

    But we’ll see, eh? Interesting times!

    In the meantime, lots of work to be done INSIDE companies and organizations – the outside insanity of the consumer world is only a part of the picture.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s