FriendFeed: aggregation vs. fragmentation

I hesitate to jump back into the whole FriendFeed debate, given the unpleasantness on the weekend involving Duncan Riley and Louis Gray, but FriendFeed co-founder Paul Buchheit wrote something about the purpose of the social aggregation service that I thought was worth commenting on. I think he has put his finger on an important reason why some people don’t like FriendFeed, or at least don’t like it as much as other “life-streaming” aggregators such as SocialThing.com or Correlate.us.

In a nutshell, what Muhammad Saleem and others have criticized about FriendFeed is the fact that when someone “likes” or comments on an item that streams into their feed from you — whether it’s a Twitter post or a Flickr photo or a StumbleUpon link — the comment and the fact that you like it only appear on the FriendFeed site, not on whatever place the content originated from. In other words, FriendFeed is more like another social network rather than a simple aggregator. That seems to be a deal breaker for many people — although others see it as a benefit.

In his post, Paul uses the analogy of going to a movie and then wanting to discuss it afterwards. Do you want to talk about it with strangers? Your family? Your friends? Other film fans? The point behind FriendFeed, he says, is to have a group of friends — and friends of friends — who you can share items with and share comments with, rather than doing it through a wide-open site. In other words, unified aggregation of everything isn’t always good. I think that’s a fair point.

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About mathewi

I'm the chief digital writer at the Columbia Journalism Review in New York, and a former writer for Fortune magazine and the Globe and Mail newspaper.

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