Tag Archives: aol

FriendFeed and Plaxo: Latest Traffic Trends for the “Webwide Lifestream Aggregator” Pioneers

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.]

Plaxo Pulse and FriendFeed

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!

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Google Becomes OpenID Provider; Plaxo and Zoho Among First Live Sites

Plaxo Signin Screen

What a week for OpenID and the opening up of the Social Web! Following Monday’s big announcement of Microsoft about to become an OpenID provider, today Google announced that it has actually become one (for real), with several sites are already live, accepting Google account credentials for signup and sign in, including Plaxo and Zoho. Google’s rollout is a very big deal for OpenID. Why? 

Like many promising technologies, OpenID has long suffered from the “chicken and egg” problem. Why should any site wrestle with the complexities of becoming a “relying party” (a site that accepts OpenID) if very few mainstream users have an OpenID and know how to use it? And, conversely, if there are very few relying parties out there, why should a mainstream Internet player, such as Google or Microsoft, rush to become a Provider?

The lineup of current (or soon to launch) OpenID Providers now includes, Google, Yahoo, AOL, Microsoft, and MySpace. And we should be able to demonstrate in the coming weeks that second-generation implementations, like what Google is launching with today (and extending soon with Portable Contacts), actually reduce the friction for onboarding new users. The result should be a massive adoption wave for OpenID all over the web. If your competitor’s OpenID-based onboarding of new users has a much smaller dropoff rate than yours, you will find yourself wanting to come up to speed quickly on how to become a relying party, too.

One of the coolest things in the official blogpost for the announcement is what is coming down the pike:

Google is also working with the open source community on ways to combine the OAuth and OpenID protocol so a website can not only request the user’s identity and e-mail address, but can at the same time request access to information available via OAuth-enabled APIs such as Google Data APIs as well as standard data formats such as Portable Contacts and OpenSocial REST APIs. In the future, this should allow a website to immediately provide a much more streamlined, personalized and socially relevant experience for users when they log in to trusted websites.

This combined “Open Stack” approach will fix so much of what is currently broken.

The New "Open Stack"

Today, every time you go to use a new website, you have to give the site your email address and choose a password; you have to upload a photo and fill out the same profile info you’ve done dozens of times before; and, you’ll probably be encouraged to import your address book and invite your friends. The new Open Stack approach can take almost all of the friction out of that process. OpenID lets you signup with existing credentials. XRDS-simple lets the site discover where you keep your data. OAuth allows you to grant restricted access to just that data (without handing over the full keys to your account). And Portable Contacts standardizes how the site can pull in the people data that you want to share, including data from your profile, your friends list, and your address book. And that can all be done in a couple of clicks, with you in control.

These are exciting times, indeed. Congrats to the Google team! 

As has become the standard for just about any “open” launch, Plaxo is among the first live, with Joseph Smarr coding away feverishly in the night. Here’s his post on the launch at the official Plaxo blog. Joseph is also quoted in the Google blogpost:

Joseph Smarr, Chief Platform Architect at Plaxo says, “It’s great to see Google become an Open ID provider in addition to supporting OAuth, which we already use. We are thrilled to be among the first sites to allow users to login with their Google Accounts. This is going to be great for users, Plaxo and the web.”

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Breaking News: Microsoft Becomes OpenID Provider

In a blogpost that just went live, Microsoft announced that they are ready to roll on the OpenID front, becoming a provider:

Beginning today, Windows Live™ ID is publicly committing to support the OpenID digital identity framework with the announcement of the public availability of a Community Technology Preview (CTP) of the Windows Live ID OpenID Provider. You will soon be able to use your Windows Live ID account to sign in to any OpenID Web site!

This is a Big Deal for opening up the Social Web. Microsoft is joining other large providers, including Yahoo and AOL. And more are on the way, based on who attended the OpenID UX Summit last week (and what they said and demoed there). Even the New York Times is talking about it.

If it hasn’t been clear yet, it should become clear soon that we will exit 2008 with OpenID having moved from “promising” to a vital part of the mainstream Internet experience.

Oh, and be sure to check out Dare Obasanjo’s post on the news, that includes a link to a screencast from Angus Logan. (Dare and Angus are both great “open” advocates within Microsoft.) Congrats, guys! Always great to see the open champions succeed in steering the strategies of the biggest of companies. Oh, and clearly props should go to Mike Jones, who was a key champion of OpenID at Microsoft, as I am reminded by Scott Kveton in the post over at ReadWriteWeb:

“It’s a big deal for OpenID because we’re seeing Microsoft ship code,” said Scott Kveton, chair of the OpenID Foundation. “This is Microsoft putting their money where their mouth is. And it’s due in no small part to Mike Jones, who has been working diligently to promote OpenID within Microsoft. I’m enormously excited to see this happening.

TechCrunch now has a piece up with additional coverage

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