Note: 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.