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Merging of Worlds, Look Out!

As most know at this point, Facebook has acquired Friendfeed. There seem to be 50 plus posts on the topic on Techmeme. Mixed reviews at best on this one. From my reads, most seem more negative slanting. Scoble is excited but thinks this is end for Friendfeed as we know it. I would agree (with the this being the end part), Facebook clearly has no interest in running a separate brand and best we can hope for is to have full open data streaming into the Facebook platform. Louis Gray is watching and comments in a funny “girls in high school” parody. Steve Rubel has an interesting take that this is the next step towards true lifestreaming.

Quick take on first glance:

  1. Can’t blame the Friendfeed team.  They built a great product and an exit to Facebook makes good shareholder return sense.  The fact the price tag was $50M really shows how bad the economy has taken a toll on liquidity.  I would think based on recent history, Friendfeed would have gone a higher price tag even sans revenue.
  2. Can’t blame the Facebook team.  As Scoble mentioned, Friendfeed was a lead innovator in the social stream space and Facebook was “borrowing” many of the innovations coming from them.  They are acquiring a great team that knows how to execute that should only continue to help them build their continually improving platform.

Personally, even while it may make sense for both teams, I can’t help to be a bit negative on this one when I probe into it a bit more.  Some of my concerns can be remedied with time, some not.

  1. I would have liked to see Friendfeed to continue to evolve with more runway, they were doing some great stuff even if their penetration was only into the real early adopters.  It would be neat to see if they could cross the chasm just as Twitter did.  But perhaps they understood that it was too complicated for the mainstream.  This one we’ll never know, the writing is on the wall that Friendfeed will be absorbed fully.
  2. I am concerned regarding innovation and also the number of players.  Louis Gray made a great point when he expressed a concern that there could be four major players, Google, Facebook, Apple and Microsoft.  We need more independent companies doing stuff in the space.  Time will play out here.
  3. Friendfeed never developed into a business model (perhaps this is why selling makes sense).  I always thought that their platform while fantastic for consumers had a great revenue opportunity for the enterprise, there is big revenue in the B2B collaborationa and communication space.  No one has won there yet and current market toosl do not satisfy the need fully.
  4. I need more than one stream in my lifestream.  As Rubel comments, lifestreaming is upon us with this acquisition.  Here I am not so sure.  I need more than one “sub-stream” in my lifestream in Facebook.  Fred Wilson removed everyone and made Facebook his private lifestream for exactly this reason.  For him, Facebook is personal and Twitter is everyone.  For me, I am going through the same conflict.  I have personal and some business people (that I actually know) in Facebook.  This creates a gray area between Facebook and LinkedIn.  I don’t know (in person) many of the people I interact with on Friendfeed; I don’t want them becoming “friends” yet on Facebook.  Already, I don’t like the fact that former business colleagues can see on Facebook what my former high school friends are posting in my news feed if I comment on it.  This whole area is an issue and is ripe for innovation.
  5. Facebook permissioning.  I know many of you are going to jump on point #4 above and say “Lou, Facebook has good privacy controls and you just need to manage the groups”.  Okay, maybe so but it isn’t clear to me on how to do this.  Is there a manual?  If you need one, there’s the first problem. It needs to be easy and straight-forward, right now it is not.   If I haven’t figured this out yet how can I expect my mom to creating multiple lifestream groups in the Facebook system.  One “newsfeed” to rull them all does not work.  Facebook may be the one to crack the code here in lifestreaming but it is beyond what they are doing now and is beyond what Friendfeed was doing too.  There needs to be innovation around easy management of the “different faces of one’s life”.  I will write another post fully on this.  But suffice it to say, the Friendfeed integration could get messy for many.  Time will tell.

So, time will tell on where this heads.  Not only for the integration of Friendfeed and Facebook functionality and follower lists, but also in the entire lifestream space in general.  Time will tell on where this puts Twitter and how quickly they potentially move to Google as Kara Swisher outlined yesterday.  Look out, lots going on and much more to be on the look out for.

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Fred Wilson’s 2010 Perspective

Image representing Fred Wilson as depicted in ...

Image via CrunchBase

Trying to catch up on the RSS feed from Building43. You can definitely see the huge amount of value for hearing thought leaders’ perspectives on the future of the web. And really the emerging importance of the web for small businesses. The power of the web is still predominately a “new frontier” for small businesses and there is going to be a lot of innovation taking place in the next couple of years to help businesses, large and small, harness the value that is out there for the taking.

Below is the video of Fred Wilson, partner at Union Square Ventures, discussing his perspective of the web now and where it is going. Not much discussion of small business in this one (perhaps Scoble felt a more FastCompany style interview was appropriate here).

But if you are going to watch a video to really get a good taste of where the web is headed, you can’t go wrong in watching this one.  Lot’s of good insights into USV’s investment philosophy as well as Fred weaves in a lot of their portfolio companies into the conversation.  And to echo on of Fred’s comments, this was a great video that I would have loved to bookmark, throw into a queue and watch on the TV…someone is going to innovate and build that company…maybe I should. :)

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DataPortability – Please Succeed

If there is one effort taking place on the web that I wish much success in achieving it goals and desired results, it is the DataPortability group.  I’m sure there are others but this is one that is top of mind, and absolutely NEEDS to happen. My friend, Daniela Barbosa, is a major proponent of the initiative and leading much of the effort.

Below is a great video about why we have a major data portability problem on our hands and why data portability is needed. I find myself not wanting to investigate or join some of the last new ventures coming out simply because the thought of entering another userid/password, profile and clicking to follow another set of people (who are the same people) makes my blood boil. The latest example is BackType, great concept, aggregating all of your comments everywhere, even aggregating the aggregating blog comments systems out there like Disqus.  So I went halfway, I sign-up and claimed my profile.  But I am not going to go and follow Scoble, Fred Wilson and Brad Feld yet again.  Twitter, Tumblr, Dopplr, Facebook, Disqus or Intense Debate, etc, etc, etc…  No way.

There are ventures trying to clean this up like openID but it is not happening fast enough. Or I should say it isn’t happening anywhere near as fast as new services are hitting the web. I don’t have any doubt that we are collectively going to get there. The question is when. This can not be one of those topics like the FCC opening the wireless spectrum, the promise of mobility or the nirvana of the digital home that will and does go on for years. It has to happen fast. Without it, if I’m getting frustrated with it, then the services we all sing praises about are never going to cross the chasm into the mainstream.

DataPortability – Connect, Control, Share, Remix from Smashcut on Vimeo.

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“Mob Rules” & Power of Networks

Mark Pesce, a consultant based in Sydney, is someone I’ve just started recently following on Twitter. He recently gave a good talk regarding Twitter which discusses the emergent use cases of the service and its global impacts. He topped it with his closing remarks at Web Directions South 2007. He gave a fantastic and insightful talk called Mob Rules which discusses the power of networks and how the networks (the mob) always find a way to the solution where “value” lies.

It isn’t just Twitter or FriendFeed. It isn’t always technology. It is about People and the power of People networks. The power of people networks (and their needs) will drive the technology because technology in many cases will be used to find the solutions to “appease the mob” and their needs. Really gets to the heart of some of the key issues of what is making social networking so pervasive today and all of the lately hyped social software so important.

Recommend checking the video out, worth the time if you are interested in stepping back and thinking about some of the themes and under-currents that are driving a lot of the change we see on the net and will continue to see. You can also check out Mark’s blog at the human network.

BTW, if the fisherman story doesn’t raise an eye-brow about how the world is changing before our eyes, well….