What Does Facebook’s Latest Acquisition Mean for Friendfeed, Facebook & Social Media Enthusiasts?

August 10, 2009 by Lisa Oshima | Advertising, Developers, Monetization, Social Media

The Wall Street Journal reports that Facebook acquired Friendfeed today for for nearly $50 Million US.  Friendfeed is a useful real-time social media aggregation and commenting service, and it’s easy to see why it caught Facebook’s attention.  Over the past several hours there’s been plenty of speculation by tech bloggers about why the acquisition took place and what this means for Friendfeed and Facebook users…

Mashable believes there were three main reasons why Facebook bought FriendFeed:

  1. The FriendFeed Team (talent acquisition comprised of several talented former Google team members including: Bret Taylor, Jim Norris, and Paul Buchheit)
  2. Product synergies: Mashable points out that Facebook implemented several FriendFeed-like features, but FriendFeed was much faster at innovating than Facebook
  3. Real-time features: “FriendFeed brings a number of eye-catching features and functions to the real-time space, and Facebook’s in the perfect position to capitalize on them in a way that FriendFeed just hasn’t been able to do.”

FastCompany believes Facebook made the acquisition in an attempt to remain relevant:

“In Facebook’s press release announcing the acquisition, there’s a Mark Zuckerberg quote in which he yammers on about Friendfeed’s “simplicity” and “elegance.” He cites those qualities as reasons for the acquisition, but simple admiration is rarely behind any multi-million dollar move. No, what Friendfeed has is universality: it acknowledges that some people are on Facebook, yes, but plenty of other are on Twitter and Gmail, and all those people want to talk to each other using one simple interface. Facebook, for all its 250 million users, is powerless to stem the tide of people who are moving towards unification apps to do their social networking, and it is desperate to do something about it.”

I suspect they’re both right. The key question in my mind is – what does this mean for Friendfeed, Facebook, and their users.  No one knows yet.

TechCrunch interviewed Friendfeed’s cofounder Bret Taylor and Facebook VP Products Chris Cox and writes:

“Taylor and Cox say that the Friendfeed product will live on independently, and eventually Friendfeed will be merged into Facebook. But the Friendfeed team is not being kept whole. Some employees will now report to Cox, others to engineering head Mike Schroepfer. In my opinion that means, long term, the Friendfeed product itself is unlikely to be a big priority.”

Robert Scoble, Friendfeed’s “number one user” and tech enthusiast interviewed Paul Buchheit, co-founder of Friendfeed today:

Scoble: “What will be the short term and long-term impact on people who are on FriendFeed?”

Buchheit: “Everything is going to keep operating. We’re still running the service. In the long term obviously, we’ll have to figure out some plan that makes sense, but we’re completely committed to supporting the users of Friendfeed. We obviously don’t want to leave them stranded.”

…and later in the interview…

Scoble: Does this mean that Friendfeed could potentially grow wildly, or is it going to be like when Google acquired Dodgeball and Friendfeed is sort of going to disappear and you guys are going to do something else inside Facebook?”

Buchheit: “I think that kind of future product dev is something we’re still just going to be working on here. So, really, no one knows exact answers to those kind of questions.”

I can’t see Friendfeed continuing as it has.  While the whole service may not be shut down, it is likely that users will see some integrations disappear – especially those with companies that may feel threatened by Facebook (i.e. anything powered by Google).  Whether or not this happens all depends on what the companies behind Friendfeed’s more popular integrations (i.e. Twitter, Google, etc.) feel about Facebook and the answers to the following critical questions:

  • Does the integration partner feel threatened or helped by the thought of Facebook syndicating their content?
  • Does Friendfeed have private API license agreements with all ~60 of its integration partners (i.e. Twitter, Facebook, Yahoo/ Flickr, etc.), or are they using the standard, click-wrap, public API license for each?
    • If “no” it is possible that some of Friendfeed’s destination partners will not want want their content distributed via a Facebook-owned property (i.e. if they view Facebook as a competitor) and may rescind the right to use their APIs through the public license. How? There are sometimes terms within a licensor’s public API license agreements that rights holders that they turn a blind eye to… until a really big fish that they feel threatened by (like Facebook) breaks them.
    • If Friendfeed does have private API license agreements with each of it’s feed owners, do those agreements have an automatic assignment clause? In other words, did those private agreements automatically transfer to Facebook once Friendfeed was aquired?
      • If not, it is possible that some of the destinations Friendfeed caters to will not want to be syndicated on Facebook and will terminate their agreements with
    • If “yes” do those private API license agreements allow advertising next to the content generated by the platform? Some destinations have restrictions on advertising in/around their content when it is transmitted through a 3rd party site.

The bottom line is that no one knows the long term impacts of this aquisition.  But, I suspect that big websites that generate revenue through ads on their websites and mobile clients won’t feel comfortable joining the Facebook revolution unless Facebook agrees to share substantial ad revenue.  I think there are probably a lot of Friendfeed integration points/ content owners that are questioning how open they want to be now that Facebook is involved.

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