The concept of an “open social network,” one that gets its news feed not from within its own walls, but rather by aggregating lifestreams from all over the open Web, first appeared with the launch of Plaxo Pulse in August 2007. [Reminder/disclosure: I head up marketing at Plaxo. ]
While Plaxo stayed heads-down focused on serving its traditional 30- to 50-year-old professional demographic with private sharing and conversations based on a family/friend/business connection model, FriendFeed came roaring into the space with a service as public and extensible as Twitter, and quickly became a darling of the early-adopter and blogger/influencer crowd.
The two services have continued to innovate down different pathways and to help map out a blueprint that we are now seeing adopted by some of the largest social networks (Facebook and MySpace) and largest of mainstream Internet companies (Yahoo, Microsoft, and AOL). So, let’s take a look at the traffic trend for these two pioneers, through the lens of the latest data from Compete.com. [Note: Compete.com only looks at U.S. traffic, and like all other tracking services, provides an approximate tally.]
While each service experienced a month here or there of sideways drift or month-over-month declines in monthly unique visitors, the clear overall trend for 2008 is one of strong growth. Plaxo in particular is showing encouraging signs of vibrancy at the end of 2008.
The key question now: with much larger players putting all their chips on the webwide lifestream aggregation model, can either of both of the two pioneers grow fast enough in their respective niches to carve out a great longterm position in the marketplace?
My belief is that the answer is “yes,” as the Web itself goes social, and the Social Web goes open, creating a wave of innovation that will favor the most agile of aggregators. And as a passionate user of both services, I sure hope I’m right!