Facebook Acquires Social Veterans in FriendFeed Deal

Update: CNNFinancial Times, NYT, and BusinessWeek captured my thoughts in their articles.

Facebook makes a play and acquires Friendfeed, a sharing and aggregation tool that helps people find out what their friends are doing. Read Friendfeed’s announcement, and Facebook’s blog post.

A few months ago the Facebook and Twitter deal fell apart, and Facebook knows it must open its community to the open web –not just behind a login in order to benefit from generating revenues through advertising and search advertising.

This Friendfeed acquisition make sense as it’s primarily a buy of the talent and team –not so much the website itself. Why? This team of ex-googlers have roots in gmail and google maps, they know how to build scalable social apps, and are also located in Silicon Valley (I’ve visited them a handful of times).

Friendfeed.com doesn’t have a tremendous amount of visitors (monthly uniques are under 1mm says Compete, compared to Facebook’s 250mm registered users) so the acquisition is for the cherry features like Search, Best of Day, and elegant and rapid procuring of social content in real time.

Expect information in Facebook to continue to become more public, and this acquisition will help fuel this. Previously, Facebook allowed profiles to be made public, and spurred a landgrab from vanity URLs.

Although the teams haven’t made any indicators of their long-term plans, I’d expect the Friendfeed features and technologies to be folded into the larger Facebook. The terms of the deal must have been great for Friendfeeders, who have often indicated they wanted to go it alone.

Takeaways:

  • Facebook’s acquisition is truly about getting a seasoned team on board that’s done it before.
  • Facebook was smart to purchase this young player who has yet to reach critical mass.
  • Expect Friendfeed features to be folded into Facebook.
  • Expect Facebook to continue to show more public content.

I’ll keep it brief, love to dialog more in the comments. I also cross-posted this on Forrester’s interactive marketing blog.

Update: It’s an interesting job to watch the rapidly evolving web industry, and during my many meetings with companies, I learn which companies are fearful of others, my most retweeted Tweet is the following:

“IBM is afraid of Microsoft who is afraid of Google who is afraid of Facebook who is afraid of Twitter who is afraid of whales.”

Cute, sure.  But in all seriousness, this acquistion is a way for Facebook to circumvent and harnass Tweets, as Friendfeed aggregates tweets in real time.

  • http://www.cloudcontacts.com Allen

    I am so glad you noted that it was for team/technology not users. I was just thinking today that I haven’t seen any traffic to my sites from FF in a while and likes seem far and few between. Plus Facebook gets some former Google internals which can’t hurt either.

    The technology is strong and should help Facebook a good bit.

    It was smart for FF to sell as I have said numerous times that they had no idea how to get past the early adopters – now they don’t need to worry about that – Paul and the others will build Facebook’s external mail product (you heard it here first) and you will get something like jowyang @ facebook.com soon.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=713265422 Michael Chin

    The other feature that FriendFeed does well which Facebook would be smart to integrate is the filtering, i.e. easy creation and management of groups into separate feeds. This adds a great deal of usability for Facebook.

    Have to admit, I was really enjoying the relative quietness of FriendFeed and found that the content I was able to filter using it has been very useful. I hope that doesn’t change.

  • http://www.1rick.com/blog Rick Martin

    Well said. Though I think FriendFeed has already passed critical mass.

  • http://www.mediathink.com/blog @mthinker

    Thanks for posting so quickly. As you suggest, I think this acquisition is all about facebook trying to achieve viable and meaningful asymmetric functionality(open web). Not sure it will work (facebook is all about privacy and permission FF, like twitter, seems to be the opposite). I suspect this is really about holding a gun to Google’s head and getting the “deal we all dread” done.

    Admittedly just random speculation on my part.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=505689060 Mark Mayhew

    understatement of the day: “FriendFeed doesn’t have a tremendous user-base”

  • http://www.facebook.com/MehdiLamloum Mehdi Lamloum

    I dont’ think it’s a big deal. let’s see how friendfeed fonctionalities can help Facebookers sharing more and well

  • http://mikelaurie.com Mike Laurie

    They must have paid peanuts for it. I’m guessing it was value shares in Facebook.

  • http://www.facebook.com/justinkistner Justin Kistner

    Man, I hope you’re right that this means Facebook won’t be such a walled garden!

    Thanks for not just telling us the deal happened and giving us some insight as to what it means.

  • http://www.web-strategist.com/blog/ jeremiah_owyang

    Justin

    expect Facebook to continue to be a walled garden, but they are going to plant more seeds outside of the walls. The issue isn’t with them, (they provide a great private experience for those that ONLY want to share with their friends)

    The challenge will be to convince users to OPT-In and allow content to be shared publically.

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  • http://www.web-strategist.com/blog/ jeremiah_owyang

    Peter Friedman, the CEO of Liveworld (community platform) had this relevant tweet:

    “PeterFriedman: @jowyang Perhaps FB acquired FF to keep it out of hands of someone else on whom it would have more real impact”

    Good point, that could have been Google or Microsoft, maybe Twitter.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=634293425 John Haydon

    I hope FriendFeed will still be available as a stand alone site. It’s value as a social aggregater might get lost if it’s rolled into Facebook.

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  • http://www.technologyslice.com.au Tech

    I think Facebook has bitten off more than it can chew.

  • http://www.facebook.com/papadimitriou Paul Papadimitriou

    Interesting quote on the preventive buy to avoid FriendFeed to fall in other hands. That may preclude the open-sourcing some are calling for.

    Then again, FriendFeed never reached any critical mass, not even from early-adopters, who were too busy on Twitter. Having tried the new somewhat limited Facebook search, I wonder if Friendfeed could help create a better one.

    I’m not sure either that Facebook really wishes to unleash the firehose to all its users, for most of them are uninterested and would just don’t get yet more features that are close to the heart of early-adopters/social media mavens. They might enhance the current import, but a smart move would be to create a FriendFeed-like community commenting, firehose importing on Facebook Pages, where it could be more useful.

    We’ll see. Again, thanks for the post, Jeremiah.

  • http://scottmoroney.typepad.com Scott Moroney

    Like the deal. Wondering if Twtter will find some exception the back door aggregation of Tweets or not given the fiailed deal to acquire Twitter? Thanks for the news.

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  • http://www.cygnismedia.com/ Facebook Applications

    Very interesting post. I really enjoyed reading it.