FriendFeed's new look: A little Twitter, a little Facebook
FriendFeed launched a new beta interface this morning, and, even though you've never seen it before, you've seen it before.
FriendFeed, which is a sort of real-time discussion feed, is now a lot more real-time. The new interface paints the screen with your friends' latest musings while you watch, blasting another high-caliber round into the now bullet-riddled concept of "refreshing" a Web page.
In other words, it just became more like Twitter. Desktop clients such as Twhirl and TweetDeck have for some time employed constant refreshing to keep users' incoming message stream forever scrolling, pumping the present into the past to make way for the future.
Facebook, too, has become a believer in the Big Stream. Its controversial revamp got rid of a slower but less noisy news feed in favor of a roaring "river of everything" approach. Which is also what FriendFeed does. FriendFeed and Facebook also depart from Twitter's unadorned look and draconian character limit, allowing longer, bulkier messages, embedded multimedia content and strings of comments from followers.
There are other differences between the three services. Facebook and Friendfeed are still private by default -- that is, access to users' profiles is governed by an explicit approval process. Twitter profiles are visible to anyone, unless the owner decides otherwise. And Twitter and FriendFeed make more sense for sharing content with professional colleagues and people you've never met, while Facebook, even though it's trying to be more public-facing, is still the best service for sharing with personal friends (as distinct, I guess, from impersonal friends).
Still, it's clear that Twitter's huge success has influenced the growth strategies of the other two services. What's tougher to decide, though, is whether the ape-Twitter approach is smart or short-sighted. It may be early enough in the history of micro-blogging for the pretenders to steal a piece of Twitter's micro-pie, especially if the young company makes any serious missteps. But Facebook and FriendFeed are not, fundamentally, micro-blogging sites -- and mama always said you're better off being yourself.
-- David Sarno