FriendFeed is one of the newest startups to come swinging out of the gate, that promises to streamline your myriad of web activities into one, easy to digest stream. This is sometimes referred to as, Lifestreaming. FriendFeed was founded by Bret Taylor, Jim Norris, Paul Buchheit and Sanjeev Sing Prior to Google, Bret worked at Reactivity, Paul worked at Intel and Sanjeev worked at Thirdvoice.com. Bret, Jim and Sanjeev hold Computer Science degrees from Stanford University and Paul holds a Computer Science degree from Case Western Reserve University.
Unlike most other services I sign up to beta test, FriendFeed actually sent me a an invitation code immediately after signing up. The signup process consisted of the usual information with one exception. Password, Email and Username were the usual culprits but you can also choose your Nickname which will also be the name attached to your FriendFeed sub domain. For example, mine is http://friendfeed.com/jeffro2pt0 with Jeffro2pt0 being my nickname. So far, FriendFeed does not support logging in via OpenID.
The Setup Process:
After logging into my account, the About Page for FriendFeed is loaded and in the top right hand corner of the page, I’m presented with a list of links.
After clicking the settings link, I am presented with a page where I tell FriendFeed which services I use out of the ones listed. In total, there are 23 different services that are currently supported by FriendFeed with plans in the future to add more. Although 23 different services surely don’t make up the total number of sites and services users have an account with, they do make up the majority of them in terms of popularity.
In order from left to right is Amazon, Your Blog’s RSS Feed, del.icio.us, Flickr, Furl, Google Reader, Google Shared Stuff, iLike, Jaiku, Last.FM, LinkedIn, Netflix, Picasa Web Albumns, Pownce, Reddit, SmugMug, StumbleUpon, Tumblr, Twitter, Yelp, YouTube, and Zoomr.
Adding an account is simple. Browse through this list of services on the left hand side of the site and add your username when prompted to do so. FriendFeed automatically detects the RSS feed for your specific username on that particular service which makes setting up your FriendFeed account as easy as 123. One thing I noticed after I added all of my accounts is, the speed in which the data was aggregated. I’ve used other services where it takes up to an hour for my feed items to start showing up after I joined the service. Not so with FriendFeed, as items started appearing soon after establishing my account.
After completeing the setup of your account, it’s a good idea to make note of your SECRET KEY. To make it possible for you to subscribe to your personalized FriendFeed in feed readers, iGoogle, and a number of external sites, FriendFeed generates a secret key for every user that lets those products get a read-only view of your FriendFeed without knowing your password. If you are ever concerned that your secret URLs are no longer secret, you can reset your secret key. When you reset your key, you will need to update your feed reader to subscribe to your new secret URL, as the old one will no longer work. So the best thing you can do is to keep the darn secret a secret!
The Public Timeline:
The Public Feed is plain yet to the point and filled with functionality under the hood.
The time line differentiates you from everyone else by adding the text ‘YOU‘ to the beginning of the post. In FriendFeed posts, each service is categorized by it’s own icon. Also, posts automatically create links to the item in question. YouTube videos can be played right from the time line by clicking on the play button. This is a very nice feature and a time saver at that. Like Jaiku, users have the ability to comment on items that come through via your stream of information. You can also delete items from your stream but unlike Jaiku , you can UNDO the deletion.
Individual timelines simply take all of your information and present it on one page, similar to the way Jaiku does. In fact, let’s see a top by top comparison of timelines just for craps and giggles.
FriendFeed Individual Timeline
Jaiku Individual Timeline
Personally, I enjoy the Jaiku time line much better. Simplicity is good, but there are times when I drown in all of the white space on FriendFeed. I’d much rather see icons or buttons used for the COMMENT and DELETE links or a combination of the two. I’d also like to see the content centered instead of being forced to the left side of the site. I think the giant whitespace on the right hand side of the site is an eyesore, not to mention how much ELECTRICITY it takes to display that page. By the way, that last statement is a play off the whole Black Google page thing.
Managing your friends is a breeze, especially if you don’t have any. FriendFeed is already hooked up to Facebook providing users a way to find their friends on Facebook that they can then add to their list of friends on FriendFeed. FriendFeed also provides a way for you to check out who has subscribed to your particular feed. At the time of this writing, no one has subscribed to http://friendfeed.com/jeffro2pt0 YOU COULD BE THE FIRST TO STALK ME!
FriendFeed has also taken the liberty to provide users a way of creating IMAGINARY FRIENDS. These are friends who don’t use FriendFeed but you would like to keep track of through FF. Think of it as SECRET STALKING. Last but not least, FF contains a FRIEND RECOMMENDATION area of the site which recommends different users to be friends with, based on the services you and others have an account with.
It’s clear that FriendFeed is a new company and there is a lot of work that needs to be done. For instance, one of the nice things about Jaiku is that they provide a way for me to subscribe to certain feeds instead of subscribing to every feed that is attached to someone. I may want to know when you update your Flickr account but then I couldn’t care less on what you’ve been digging. Hopefully this feature is added on to FF in the near future.
I’m also not to happy with the design. I like the idea of simplicity and how fast the pages load, but at times, I have a real hard time finding what it is I’m looking for. For whatever reason, I keep wanting to stare at the big section of white space which may mean I am mentally disabled. Whatever the case may be, I think that if the content were centered and a smooth gradient were applied to the background, the site would be easier on the eyes.
One of the problems I see with so many of these sites and their associated timelines is how much garbage they end up being filled with. Take Last.FM for example. Songs last anywhere between 2-4 minutes and after each song is played, that entry is logged into that users RSS feed which is then aggregated to these lifestreaming services. Next thing you know, the timeline is filled with nothing but Last.FM entries which is annoying to say the least. I’d like to see a user controlled option of deciding what it is I’d like to see on the public timeline or, a way for me to determine how many entries per service I see on the timeline. Maybe that’s asking a bit too much but I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in feeling this way.
I’d like to see where the ex-Google folks take this service. They have the experience and the know how, let’s see if they have the execution. FriendFeed is currently in BETA only with no invitations. However, you can sign up for an beta invite by visiting their Become A Beta Tester Page.
Please leave a comment and let me know what you thought about this review, the service, lifestreaming or anything else related to this post.