FriendFeed, Facebook and the Insider Logroll

Yesterday the news broke that Facebook has acquired Friendfeed. It’s way early in the process of figuring out what this means going forward, but until it is proven otherwise to me, I’m assuming that there is nothing good in this for me. I like FriendFeed as it is and have been touting it for over a year as the antidote to the things that suck about Twitter. Shades of the buyout of I Want Sandy which shortly led to that very useful service getting shut down. My expectation that is the fate that is in store for FriendFeed. If it still around this time next year, I’ll admit that my gut feeling is wrong but that is where my gut compass currently points.

The reaction to this buyout shows the true polarization of the insiders and outsiders in the online world. There were basically two reactions to this news: 1) “Oh boy, it is doubtful that this is good for me as a user of FriendFeed” and 2) “I’m happy for the founders and investor who got to cash out.” The second reaction is common in these kinds of buyouts and it drives me crazy.

I don’t have any emotions for the founders of FriendFeed or their personal lives and bank accounts. They built something that is useful in my life, I used it daily and by my use, I was one of the many who byte by byte built the value that they later realized in a cash payout. The “this is great for the founders” view is something useless to me. If you are one of those couple of hundred or thousand Silicon Valley types who hang out in these social circles then good for you. One of your own made good. For the tens or hundreds of thousands of users of FriendFeed not in that circle, things aren’t looking so good. How about you insiders try to make the next one of these work without the broader online public and see how that works for you? If y’all are so happy, try being the only users of these things from now on. For myself, I am looking for good stewards of my online life yet over and over again, finding those I entrust lacking.

I’ve gotten tired of feeling milked by these things. I’m tired of integrating these things into my life and then having them pulled out from under me. I repeat, we don’t know that is happening here. If it does, this is a cut that won’t heal soon. I’ve built up enough Web 2.0 antibodies to become resistant to their idea viruses. The burden of proof that I should spend my time on any new whizzy thing will have been raised and my skepticism will become that much more solidified.

FriendFeed, Facebook, don’t screw me on this. If you pull an I Want Sandy style shutdown, you are closing the door on an era.

One Reply to “FriendFeed, Facebook and the Insider Logroll”

  1. I’m slotted right in there with you, Dave. This comes out of the blue, and while I’m trying to have faith in at least some of the founders doing “the right thing” (Paul Buchheit in particular appears to want that, at least), I’m honestly pessimistic.

    But we’re stuck relying on good faith. Stuck sharecropping. Again. *sigh* Serves me right, I suppose…in my explorations of a way forward, I’m pretty much bound and determined to stick to solutions that protect against this happening again.

    There appear to be 2 decent ways:
    1) “legal”/explicitt assertion (ie, founder says, if I sell this thing, I’ll make a copy/GPL the code/whatever)

    2) architectural and technical design (decentralized and federated, and ideally already either open-sourced, or with F/OSS implementations available.)

    Ideally, both, though with #2, you’re semi-protected from the requirement of #1.

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