Tag Archives: FriendFeed

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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Pure-Play Aggregators: A Traffic Update

Compete released the stats for August, with mixed news for the pure-play Social Web Aggregators. Plaxo continued to see nice growth, clocking 244% year-over-year growth and 11% month-over month growth in monthly unique visitors. FriendFeed, on the other hand, experienced a bit of a stall, with a tiny drop in monthly unique visitors compared with July. SocialThing (recently acquired by AOL) got a traffic increase from the news of its acquisition, but total monthly unique visitors remains under 100,000. Iminta’s traffic was too low to track.

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Can the pure-play Social Web Aggregators grow fast and long enough to achieve escape velocity before the big former walled garden services, like Facebook and MySpace, re-invent themselves into true Social Web Aggregators?

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The Real McCrea is Hunting for Bigfoot

Bigfoot and the Six Million Dollar Man

Yes. That’s right, Bigfoot, the mythical woods ape of North America, which seized the public imagination in the 1970’s, peaking with an appearance on The Six Million Dollar Man, and then slowly fading away, like CB radio, Hamburger Helper, and Pet Rocks

That is, until the other evening, when in my diligent search for fast breaking memes, I discovered via FriendFeed a post on Duncan Riley’s blog, The Inquisitr, the most amazing news: Bigfoot had returned to the public consciousness — this time in the form of a press release about a press conference about the purported capture of a real dead Bigfoot! And to my surprise, the press conference would not be in some remote mountain town, but rather here, in Silicon Valley’s Palo Alto! What might turn out to be the story of the decade will play out at the Cabana Hotel, just miles from my office and home.

Now, the Bigfoot story may not fit squarely in the charter of this blog on the emergence of the Social Web, but heck, I’ve been thinking about expanding my scope anyway. So, The Real McCrea is on it! I’ll be heading over on Friday to the press conference, hi-def camcorder in one hand and MacBook Air in the other, ready to live blog the story for you. I hope to be joined by a gaggle of my media brethren, as this story has been teased by news organizations around the world, even including Fox and, yes, Scientific American.

Wish me luck that my blogger “credentials” will be enough to get me past security…

UPDATE: I have heard from other bloggers that they have asked for access to the event and been told that it is for “press only”. Now I know this is a hoax; the REAL Bigfoot would not discriminate against bloggers.

Plus, here’s some rare video footage of Bigfoot:

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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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Four-Month Update on How I Use Social Media

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Back in April, inspired by a post from Louis Gray, My Social Media Consumption Workflow, I wrote a piece, entitled Evolution of My Social Media Interactions, which sought to capture a snapshot of the set of services I was using then for interacting with social media. It was already clear then that I would need to revisit this subject from time-to-time:

Okay, enough for now. Who knows how I’ll be using all this stuff next month, or which new tool will get added to my kit?

Back in April, I focused on “how I start my day” and talked about:

I fire up the browser, and open up a series of tabs: my blog, Techmeme, Twitter search engine Summize, Plaxo Pulse, Twitter.

What’s changed since then? A few things. First of all, I have far less of a notion of “starting my day” with social media. Back then, I think I was viewing this a bit like a substitute for the morning paper. Sure, I checked on things throughout the day, but not obsessively. Now, I’ve gone from a morning dip into the social media pool to swimming in it morning, noon, and night.

That said, what sites get tab real estate in my browser is still an important indicator of where my social media consumption is heading. My current lineup is Plaxo Pulse (reminder/disclosure: I work for Plaxo), FriendFeed, Summize (which is now Twitter search; set to the query “plaxo”), Twitter, and Techmeme.

Truth be told, I’m using Twitter less and FriendFeed more. (FriendFeed got a mention in my post in April, but had not yet risen to “tab status.”) FriendFeed and Twitter Search help me as a marketer know what is on the minds of an influential demographic of early adopters. There are many folks I follow directly there — and many, many more I encounter based on searches. And, of course, this sort of social discovery provides opportunities for me to jump in to either start a conversation or contribute to one already going.

One question that I am often asked is, “How do you use FriendFeed and Plaxo? Why both?” That’s actually really easy. I use FriendFeed to track and engage in public discourse, and I use Plaxo Pulse to share content and conversations privately with my family, my friends, and my coworkers, and to stay better connected with my extended business network.

On the production side, I am mindful that many bloggers are struggling to find the time to keep producing good long-form content in a 140-character attention span world. I, too, am not immune, and I find that my posting frequency here has dropped since April considerably. That said, I find that Plaxo and FriendFeed are *both* becoming good drivers of readership.

Perhaps the biggest change in my engagement with social media is my jump into video. Together with Joseph Smarr and David Recordon, I’ve launched an Internet TV show called The Social Web TV. We’ve launched using Viddler for hosting and streaming the video, and the blog is on TypePad from SixApart. It is really invigorating to tackle the challenge of producing a great show every week. (Shout out to Gary Vaynerchuk and Robert Scoble who inspired me to take the leap.)

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Gnip Flips the Aggregation Model from Pull to Push

Have you ever found yourself refreshing your browser while watching the river of content in your aggregator of choice, wondering why your latest photos, blogpost, or tweets haven’t shown up? “Are they there now?” Pause. “How about now?” Sigh.

A company launching today, Gnip, seeks to cure the “aggregation latency” problem, by flipping the model from one in which the aggregators periodically pull data from all the different social media sites to one in which updates are pushed to them from a single service (Gnip).

Is there really a need for such a service?

When Plaxo launched Pulse last August, kicking off a wave of social media aggregation that would spawn FriendFeed, Iminta, Social Thing, among others, the various social media sites, like Twitter, Flickr, and Digg, were not not expecting them. They had not built out infrastructure to handle a rising tide of requests for updates. Each aggregator had to figure out how frequently it could send out its crawlers without running into throttles at the various social media sites. And each social media site had to figure out how best to handle this new load coming from other services, rather than directly from their users.

All of the parties are now wrestling with scaling this model. And seeing that, the guys at Gnip saw an opportunity. It’s really interesting to watch the Social Web ecosystem beginning to emerge. As my readers know, I’m a big believer that aggregation is a critical core of that ecosystem, because in an era when most of the Web is social, aggregators provide the only way for mainstream users to keep up with what their family and friends are creating and sharing online.

Joseph Smarr of Plaxo has a nice post, explaining it in more detail. Also ReadWriteWeb’s Marshal Kirkpatrick has thoughtful analysis.

[Reminder/disclosure: I work at Plaxo, one of the companies discussed in this post.]

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Fixing the Social Web: Aggregating “Me”

PlaxoPublicProfilesFinal

In a recent post, inspired by Robert Scoble’s “How to Fix the Web,” I laid out the framework for the ecosystem of an open Social Web. I envisioned that the user will be at the center, with clear ownership and control of their personal data and content, enjoying the freedom to take it with them wherever they go across the web.

Making that possible, will be the three core elements of the Social Web service layer:

– Identity Providers
– Social Graph Providers
– Content Aggregators

In a guest column today on GigaOm, entitled “The Social Map is All About Me,” Mark Sigal lays out a case for the importance of the third one of these, “the need to aggregate.” Mark asserts that “regardless of where my content and data originate, I have a right to pull this data into MY sandbox, a sandbox where I track my threads, organize my media, filter my views and push my content wherever and however I please.” I couldn’t agree more.

In a world in which nearly every website is socially-enabled or socially-aware, we will all desparately need a dashboard that brings order to the chaos of fragmentation. That dashboard will allow us to aggregate and manage our own “lifestream” and to make decisions about what parts to make public and what parts to share with family, with real friends, or with looser ties. (Plaxo Pulse is an example of such as aggregator today.) That aggregation dashboard will also bring together into one or more rivers of news, the lifestreams from the people you want to follow. (That function is common to all of the aggregators out there, including Plaxo Pulse, FriendFeed, Iminta, SocialThing, and the new gorilla entrant, Facebook.)

There are other many other consequences of having a “dashboard for the Social Web,” which I won’t get into in this post. But one that does seem particularly relevant, is the establishment of a user-controlled profile for the public portion of the Social Web. An example of one is the image at the top of the page. Its my actual page, hosted at johnmccrea.myplaxo.com. It combines the portion of my lifestream that I have aggregated into Pulse and marked as “public.” It also shows “me” across the web (at least those identities I have chosen to assert publicly as me). Behind the scenes, Plaxo is leveraging Google’s Social Graph API to make that identity consolidation super easy. The page is maked up with microformats, which means that it is machine-readable, which makes the data usable by other services without re-keying by the user.

Now, imagine if the URL for the page were to become an OpenID…

…but that’s a topic for another post, at another time.

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Facebook Becomes an Aggregator, Too

Cracks Forming in the Wall?

In a move thats been expected for a while, Facebook has just enter the lifestream aggregation space (alongside Plaxo Pulse, FriendFeed, and a list of companies that grows nearly every week). Out the door, they are only supporting handful of external sources (Flickr, del.icio.us, Picasa, and Yelp), but they say many more are on the way.

Does this move make sense? Absolutely. Is it, as TechCrunch’s Mark Hendkrickson says, a threat to FriendFeed? Sort of. Eric Eldon, of Venture Beat, raises that question, as well.

But I see this as a very natural evolution, as we make our way from the era of “walled gardens” over to the open world of the Social Web. In that world, the user will be at the center, owning their own data and content, with the freedom to take it with them wherever they go. In that ecosystem, their will be a service layer that connects the user to myriad socially-enabled sites. That Social Web sevice layer will have three main components:

– Identity provider
– Social graph provider
– Content aggregator

Some players, like Facebook and Plaxo, will likely provide all three services, while others might focus on one or two. For example, Clickpass and Yahoo! are clearly playing in the “identity provider” space already, with consumer-friendly implementations of OpenID. The social graph provider space is the one that doesn’t yet exist, but is at the core of the vision for “data portability.” Expect interesting developments there in the coming months.

Other coverage include’s Mashable’s Paul Glazowski, here, and a nice piece by CNET’s Caroline McCarthy, which raises the interesting question of whether there is a revenue arrangment involved. Interesting question…

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Who Owns This Conversation?

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A debate is erupting in the blogosphere about whether it’s okay or not for comments on blogposts (or other user generated content) to be splintered off in various RSS readers or social media aggregators, such as Shyfter or FriendFeed or any of a number of other services that enable users to project their lifestreams into them.

This is indeed an interesting discussion, as we are just now on the cusp of the Social Web, a complex ecosystem with as-yet undefined rules. Their will be identity providers (OpenID providers, such as Yahoo!, AOL, Clickpass, and some day, Microsoft), online identity consolidators (i.e. Google Social Graph API and Plaxo public profiles), portable social graph providers (hmmmm, stay tuned), and myriad feed aggregators (seems like a new one every week; first Plaxo Pulse, last summer, and now in recent weeks: FriendFeed, Iminta, SocialThing, etc.).

There is a real tension here: Comments out on the anonymous web tend toward the sophomoric; whereas comments inside circles with identity bring out the best in people. Right now, in the absence of the full-blown open Social Web, we see various experiments underway that try to bridge that gap. In the process, it appears that comment threads are being “stolen.” I don’t think anyone is really trying to make a big play based on hijacking the comment thread.

There’s a bunch of interesting problems to be worked on here, and I expect rapid progress.

Here’s the posts from the debate so far: Louis Gray, Matthew Ingram, and not to be missed, Deep Jive Interests.

Update: Robert Scoble has jumped into this “bitchmeme” saying the “Era of blogger’s control is over.” I agree that bloggers should embrace the organic spread of their influence through the conversation fragments across the web, but also think we tool providers can apply some smarts to the problem to stitch some of this stuff back together.

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Essential Twitter Tools: My Two Cents

Woody, Up Close and Personal

How can we get the most out of the revolutionary “microblogging” platform Twitter?

Influential Forrester analyst and veteran blogger, Jeremiah Owyang, recently posted on the topic of “essential Twitter tools.” I can certainly relate, as an increasingly heavy (a.k.a, addicted) Twitter user. Twitter is, in my opinion, a first-class citizen of the Social Web. Very open. Very social.

I have tried all the tools Jeremiah mentions, and for me, the key is search. I mourn the loss to Terraminds, but have happily replaced it with Tweetscan. (Although, when it was down for hours today, I had serious withdrawal.) Why? Because it really matters to me what people are tweeting about my company (Plaxo). When someone has a problem, complaint, question, or suggestion for Plaxo and voices it via Twitter, I want to know. Many a new conversation or relationship has been struck as a result of this facility.

My only addition to Jeremiah’s list is Plaxo Pulse (the first social aggregator). There, by virtue of the foundation of my unified address book, I am “following” a bunch of Twitterers that I am not following directly in Twitter (or indirectly via FriendFeed). And, because Pulse allows for status sync with Twitter, many of those messages show up simply as status updates.

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