Tag Archives: Iminta

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 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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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”

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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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