Let’s Be Friends: Facebook Acquires FriendFeed
The two best websites for connecting with your friends have suddenly connected with each other.
Facebook has acquired the life-streaming website FriendFeed, the companies announced Monday. The sites will both continue to operate independently for the time being until the companies can decide the best way to integrate their products.
The integration will be delicate work: While the two sites have much in common, there are several hurdles relating to privacy, feature redundancy and the big question of what to do with all that FriendFeed data that need to be overcome.
“The exact plan for how the integration is going to be handled is something we’re still discussing,” FriendFeed founder Paul Buchheit tells Webmonkey. “In the short term, nothing changes.”
Friendfeed and its API will both remain working normally until further notice, the company explained in a blog post Monday. Also, according to the official press release posted at Facebook, FriendFeed’s employees will join Facebook, and the site’s four founders will take on new roles within Facebook’s engineering and product teams.
At this point, details are slim: Both FriendFeed and Facebook folks have made it clear that the long-term plans for merging the products are still being ironed out.
Webmonkey’s biggest question is what this means for the “stuff” currently residing on FriendFeed’s platform. Right now, the default is that all posts are published publicly, and there are millions of comments, files and links stored on FriendFeed that will need to be forklifted over to Facebook. What changes will we see when that data is moved over, if any at all?
Buchheit says long-term issues such as that one are still being resolved.
“We want to look out for our users,” he stresses, “so obviously we want to make sure everything is preserved. But as far as the long term and how those integrations will happen, we’re still working on it.”
It’s not surprising to see these two companies come together. Both Facebook and FriendFeed offer easy ways for friends to connect online, share links, photos, status updates and other socially relevant media. Both sites also emphasize the importance of providing real-time updates. The big difference is that, while some users publish exclusively to FriendFeed, the site is more broadly used as a funnel — an aggregation tool that pulls in data streams from a plethora of social websites using streams.
Facebook has a much more fleshed-out platform. Granted, you can set up your Facebook profile to pull in activity streams from other sites like Flickr and Twitter, but most Facebook users prefer to just post everything to the native publishing platform provided by Facebook.
When Facebook updated its site design about a year ago, it brought the two products closer together visually as well.
But it’s the differences that are going to stand out. Both Buchheit and Facebook VP of Engineering Mike Schroepfer, to whom we also spoke, say that there are some particularly difficult challenges ahead, like the fact that many of FriendFeed’s features, such as Groups, don’t correlate exactly with any of Facebook’s current features. There are some features that come close, but the rest present headaches the companies will have to cure down the road.
And what about FriendFeed users who are not Facebook users? Will they have to sign up for Facebook to continue using FriendFeed?
Again, both Buchheit and Schroepfer said that their teams are working on the long-term details for transitioning user accounts.
One thing that should make the integration easier is that Facebook supports the emerging Activity Streams standard, a way of structuring data streams that standardizes the way events are announced. For example, “Scott posted a photo” or “Heather commented on a video.”
One point we didn’t get to ask about is the fact that FriendFeed recently added a file sharing component to its service that lets users pass MP3s to one another, and to publish them for streaming and download on the public web. It will be interesting to see if this will be integrated into Facebook, and what shape it will take if it is.
Developers who are working on apps that push to or pull from FriendFeed can watch for developments in the FriendFeed News group. Likewise, Facebook developers can keep up to date with changes at developers.facebook.com.