Anyone familiar with digg, Netflix, del.icio.us, flickr, Picasa, LinkedIn, Last.fm, StumbleUpon, reddit, etc. knows that any sort of social networking at any of these sites (that is, sharing / commenting / befriending) happens in isolation. Want to see what your friends are up to in terms of music listening, picture uploading, movie watching, career changing, or Internet bookmarking? Well, clear your schedule because you’ll need the time to log in to your dozen or so favorite social networks. Being social has never been so fragmented and time consuming.
But a new service called FriendFeed has emerged. Conceived and created by a few ex-Googlers who are notably responsible for Google Maps and Gmail, FriendFeed allows you to quickly and simply aggregate and consolidate all your social data from the above listed social networks (and many others, see below for a list). If I may be so bold as to take a stab at creating a useless label for this technology, I’d call is RSS 2.0. In fact, FriendFeed may be the easiest way to explain RSS to anyone unfamiliar. It takes what RSS is supposed to do (if the masses could get past what it is in the first place), strips out the techie context, and just works.
How it works is simple. You decide which social networks you’d like to add to your friendfeed (as an example, I started with my Amazon wishlist, my Netflix movie queue, and my Last.fm list of music I’ve listened to recently). You decide to make your feed public or private and can share it with everyone or preselected friends. Your friends do the same, and you create a feed of your friends’ activity across all these social platforms. So any time Joe watches a movie, Beth adds a book to her wishlist, or Tim uploads new pictures, you see the activity all in one place (without having to login to all those separate sites).
And each time you or your friends has an update like that, any of you can comment on it within FriendFeed. The commenting system is pretty simple right now and a fun and easy way for you and your friends to drop each other notes, again, without logging in to multiple sites. Right now the service is an invitation only beta, so it doesn’t quite work as intended since most of my friends aren’t (and can’t be) using it currently. But you can request your friends be sent invitations in the next round (which I have already done for a bunch of you). And, in the mean time, you can get recommended friends based on similar tastes.
It’s not perfect and still quite new. One idea that will need to be implemented sooner rather than later is that of filters. You may not be interested in seeing your friends’ activity across every social network they have included in their feed. But the overall concept and the initial delivery seem brilliant and simple. For more coverage, check out this piece in the New York Times.
Oh, and the supported sites so far are the following:
Google Shared Stuff
Picasa Web Albums