Last Thursday I had the privilege of hanging out with some really famous bloggers and FriendFeed personalities including Robert Scoble, Michael Arrington, Eric Eldon, Thomas Hawke, Louis Gray, Hutch Carpenter and the FriendFeed team (among many others) to get a good look at the new FriendFeed UI. If you want a more detailed treatment of the new UI and what it means for the world, I’d encourage you to watch Scoble’s video or read Louis’ or TechCrunch’s post. After playing with the new UI for about a day, I have a few thoughts:
The Changing Nature of Friendfeed
When I first started using FriendFeed, it was mostly about text. By and large, many of my friends were using FriendFeed as a place to talk about text – blog posts, articles from the web, etc. Over the last 6 months or so, I’ve noticed a decided shift toward using FriendFeed as a place to discuss non-text forms of media – photos, videos, and even cartoons. I see many more of the most commented items in my FriendFeed having some strong visual or media element to them. Things that used to generate substantial amounts of commentary six months ago (namely tweets) seem to be less effective at inspiring commentary and feedback. It seems to me that the latest redesign is driven more by the ways in which users are using the service than a desire to keep up with the other web joneses.
Content type is more important than content source
The thing I like most about the new FriendFeed UI is that they have emphasized the nature of the content (photo, video, blog post, link, etc) over the source of the content. This seems very smart to me as I’m more interested in seeing photos than I am in distinguishing between photos from one source and another. That might be interesting data for FriendFeed to collect on the backend, but I don’t know why the content source should matter to me as a user.
Real-time is useful as a default, but not as useful as the new white on grey background
I thought the real-time default would be the big feature for me, but it isn’t. Strange as it sounds, the thing that I like most besides favoring content type over content sources is the lack of the all-white design. Having the grey background and white center content column actually helps me with readability and keeps me focused on the content in the middle of the page. And I’m hoping that the grey background becomes skinnable at some point – a small modicum of personalization would go a long way.
This isn’t about killing Twitter or Facebook or any other service on the web
All three services are still unique to me. In my universe, Twitter has become a place where people come to share status updates and links to interesting content on the web. The inability to preview visual content (videos, photos) and the speed with which some of my friends update Twitter makes it less useful to me as a place to consume media. Each service can peacefully co-exist and thrive. As for Facebook, the new FriendFeed UI is similar in objective to the latest Facebook redesign (a real-time aggregation of what your friends are doing on the web and in real-life), but Facebook pulls in many sources that FriendFeed does not (Facebook applications, group activities, events, and actions taken on websites that support Facebook connect, etc). Also, so long as Facebook doesn’t have an asynchronous follow model, it won’t work for me as a place to keep track of all of the people I know who find or produce things worth reading.
Even with an increased set of options for tracking the real-time web, I still think FriendFeed is tops for me when it comes to finding interesting stuff to read and check out on the web. I’m curious to see how these three services continue to evolve over time and which communities tend to gravitate most strongly toward specific sites.