The Rapid Rise of FriendFeed and Plaxo’s Pulse

There is a sea change underway in social networking. If there were any doubt that we are moving from the “walled garden” phase to a new era defined by interoperability between aggregation hubs and the rest of the Social Web, recent moves by Facebook and MySpace should erase any doubt.

The biggest winners of the future will be the services that do the best job of harnessing the power of the virtuous cycle of social discovery at the core of “Social Web Aggregation.” Let’s take a look at how two pioneers of the new model are faring, Plaxo Pulse and FriendFeed…

Before looking at the numbers, it’s important to remind ourselves that last summer, walled gardens were the future. Plaxo wasn’t yet in the social networking space. And FriendFeed hadn’t yet launched their service. It was almost exactly a year ago that Plaxo launched Pulse, the first Social Web Aggregator. [Disclosure/reminder: I work for Plaxo, but you already knew that.] One of the key questions was, “Are enough people using multiple user-generated content sites that one can build a thriving service based on ‘lifestreaming’ the activity streams from those services?”

So, let’s look at the July numbers from Compete, which just became available within the last 48 hours. [One caveat, every third party traffic tracking service has it’s limitations; Compete is looking just at U.S. traffic and does not have visibility to activity originating from client software.] How are the two most prominent pure-play Social Web Aggregators faring? In a word, “thriving.”

Plaxo and FriendFeed both posted greater that 20% month-over-month growth from June to July, and Plaxo clocked 225% year-over-year growth in monthly unique visitors. (Year-over-year data for FriendFeed not yet available, but coming soon.) The slope of Plaxo’s rise is slightly higher than FriendFeed’s, but that is not as significant as the clear sign that both services are surging.

I am an enthusiastic user of both services and I don’t see them as competing with each other. Quite the contrary. I love using FriendFeed for staying on top of what the early adopter and influencer crowd are buzzing about in public conversations. And I love using Plaxo for private sharing and conversing with highly granular control of what I share with whom.

As a footnote, the rising “aggregation” tide is *not* floating all boats equally. Latecomers, with little obvious differentiation, such as Iminta and SocialThing, have generated so little traction as to barely show up in Compete.

Congratulations to Plaxo (who pulled off a re-invention of the company and has managed to execute well through a change of ownership) and to FriendFeed (who have entered a hot space with really great focus and execution). Game on!

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8 thoughts on “The Rapid Rise of FriendFeed and Plaxo’s Pulse

  1. Nay Sayer says:

    John, every time you post you talk about Plaxo being the first social aggregator (“a year ago that Plaxo launched Pulse, the first Social Web Aggregator”) despite the fact that mugshot and profilactic beat you there by like, a year.

  2. gregorylent says:

    for the user, it is better if these sites remain relatively small … if you take them all the way out, comments will inevitably end up like those on youtube, the effect of the lowest common denominator.

    competition for numbers is not as desirable as competition for quality, intelligence, coherence.

    i know it is the american way to go for big, but ….

  3. jer979 says:

    Now, if you guys allowed me to create categories beyond (Biz and Friend) like I do in Outlook or FB (say “friends interested in Japan” -since I lived there or “Technology”) and where I could use you as my default broadcast AND dialogue communication service, that would be wicked cool!

    I’m a huge Plaxo fan and wish everyone used it (hate those “here’s my new email emails”) so want to see you succeed.

    BTW, the new add-in that pre-populates Outlook based on an email address is SWEEEEEETTTTTTT!

  4. therealmccrea says:

    Thanks, jer979. Good thoughts!

  5. Jim Turner says:

    Any idea when Plaxo is going to raise the limit for the number of Pulse contacts one can have. I’m maxed out and there are 650+ folks waiting for me to confirm them, but I can’t.



  6. therealmccrea says:


    I don’t. That use case is not squarely in our focus. We are working hard on making Pulse rock for enriching your connection with friends, family, and coworkers, rather than on building yet-another networking tool, so we’re focused on quality of sharing rather than quantity of connecting.

    It will be interesting to see over time how many people end up wanting to consume feeds from more than a 1,000 of their closest connections!

    Question: how many people do you want to be able to maintain bi-directional sharing connections with? I am interested in feedback on that.


  7. Doug says:

    a long time ago (late 1990s) there was Zkey and ZCentral.

    they tried the whole integrated contact/address book updating interactive model

    they flopped

    I should know — was an early adopter of it who was “orphaned”

  8. […] hear a lot about this nirvana of open security and data for social sites, especially in the context of plaxo, yahoo, google, twitter and all the other […]

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