A lot has already been said about Facebook’s acquisition of Friendfeed even though we don’t know the full details of how it will all pan out. The doom mongers are working overtime, almost revelling in the fact that they have an excuse for another pop at Facebook whilst others feel that this could be the best thing that could have happened (imagine what it would be like if Google or MS bought them instead).
The facts are that Facebook and Friendfeed are aimed at two disparate audiences for two disparate purposes with two completely distinct operating models. Facebook may have been “borrowing” some of the best ideas that Friendfeed had to offer and Friendfeed, in turn, may have been redesigned their interface to make it more familiar to users of other services but they (currently) remain at almost opposite ends of the social media spectrum.
Do we read between the lines from the announcement on the Friendfeed blog when it says that “Friendfeed will continue to operate normally for the time being” – does this mean that it will eventually be devoured by the Facebook monster and no longer exist as we know it? Most likely, but at present it is all speculation.
Cross-breeding functionality may well enhance both but the acquisition must be handled extremely carefully or the same cross breed could ruin both services and alienate both sets of users.
Unfortunately, social media is a living paradox. It strives for openness and flexibility with accessibility from as many platforms as possible but, despite this surface flexibility, we are tied to the same back end. The constant battle between technological freedom and system dependence. We may be able to connect from anywhere but we are always connecting to the same thing.
But that is what social media is about. We have a choice of networks but a service is only as good as the people who use it, your friends and your community. I may use Twitter, you may use Plurk but without interaction they are meaningless. The choice exists but unless we get all of our friends, our community, to choose the same way we are talking to ourselves.
For all of the flexibility we crave we are governed, out of necessity, by the herd mentality and this is what has a lot of people running scared about the Friendfeed acquisition. If Friendfeed does get absorbed and cease to function as a separate entity what will the resulting offspring be like? Which features will come from either parent? Will we get a genetically perfect super child or end up with a Frankenstein’s monster and, ultimately, will we be able to persuade our community to migrate with us.
Fear of change
As a rule we fear change – at least BIG change – but change can be an extremely effective catalyst prompting new ideas and ways of achieving our goals. Whilst this fear may sometimes be justified it is, at the base level, often unfounded as the likes of Friendfeed are subject to constant change as the service evolves and grows over time. Perhaps the acquisition by Facebook is required for the next evolutionary jump to occur or, just as equally, it may cause an evolutionary dead end – the social media Neanderthal.
All we know is that the winds of change are blowing, their direction remains to be seen so we should all reserve judgement until the storm hits.
Sometimes we need to leave our comfort zones.