I’ve been watching this whole Twitter meltdown thing and the reactions to it around the blogosphere. As well I’ve been reading much of what is being written about FriendFeed becoming the replacement (again) for a failing Twitter. I have also written more than once here about both services but I have never believed that the two are in anyway serving the same type of purpose.
I like Twitter for its immediacy and brevity. It’s just there and (when it worked) simply elegant. I like FriendFeed as well, granted I haven’t been on it as much lately because I’ve been busy, but it’s different.
They are different and trying to compare the two is like trying to compare apples and oranges in the truest sense of the word. Even though the A-Lister crew who pumped up Twitter; and decried FriendFeed when it first started, are now shifting from being absentee members to repeating the same old argument that FriendFeed is Twitter’s replacement nothing could be further from the truth. Granted when people like Michael Arrington and Steve Gillmor start with the hype of how much better FriendFeed is over Twitter it is bound to have an effect – the question is who exactly are they speaking to and are they listening.
The attitude seems to be that FriendFeed will take the place of Twitter because of the conversation factor. The problem is that Twitter was never intended to be a conversation medium. It was meant to be a broadcast medium where you announced what you were doing, much how Brightkite is a location announcement service. It was the users though that drove it into new territory. The other consideration as far as Twitter is concerned is the platform used to develop it as many folks have questioned the scalability of it.
Regardless of the fact that people like Dave Winer have suggested that a decentralized version of the service would be the solution to all its woes, Twitter has become an integral part of the whole Web 2.0 fabric. We have joked many times about the Fail Whale as we wait for it to come back online after its many crashes. We have bemoaned the taking down of various parts of the service which every time it happens have people talking more and more about how its days could be numbered.
As part of that discussion FriendFeed is always pointed to as being the successor but the numbers don’t necessarily support that supposition. Sure those of us that have been there for most of FriendFeed’s life see an influx of new follower requests but in no way does that suggest that people are leaving Twitter for FriendFeed. Much of the reason for this is that FriendFeed was never intended to be a Twitter clone just as I don’t necessarily believe that the commenting that happens on the service was intended either – that is why Twitter was included as a importable service.
Just as how as Dave Winer said in a post today “Fact is, Twitter as it was conceived was never meant to live”; for which they are paying the price, the same thing could be said about FriendFeed. The only advantage is that FriendFeed has been developed from day one to deal with the types of problems that have literally crippled Twitter. Where Twitter has had to grow and develop as a platform with no real hindsight of how to deal with the problems that have plagued them especially since the users have taken it place it was never intended to FriendFeed on the other hand has had plenty of that hindsight. Right from the beginning FriendFeed has had developers with Google experience of scalability and they’ve been able to watch Twitter – both these things have given them an immense advantage.
Even more than that though is the fact that the users; even though at this early stage has plenty of cross-over, for the two services are different. While both have had the luxury of the early adopter crowd singing the praise of both that crowd is extremely fickle and in the end while they are great to have aren’t the target audience – especially with Twitter.Certainly Twitter may now have faded as the darling of the early adopter crowd but is interesting to note that even with all the problems people aren’t running to comparable services.
With FriendFeed, it is similar to Twitter in the fact they are building something that really wasn’t there before. Where Twitter is much like a subway train as it carries messages back and forth FriendFeed has become the Union Station of our online lives. Through it we can easily watch what all the other people that matter to us are doing but in one centralized space. As Twitter hasn’t been designed to do anything more that share messages FriendFeed has been designed to be our personal library.
This is where the differences between the users of the systems will come into play. With Twitter users; both now and in the future, it is simply a matter of being able to talk aloud and have your friends hear you. It isn’t about creating a lifestream of data and nor is it about having an in depth conversation. This was the whole reason behind limiting the text to 140 characters. With FriendFeed though its users are collectors of information and are looking for conversation beyond short bursts of text that quickly pass by you.
There is no denying the fact that Twitter is having some really severe problems and that users are getting fed up. Getting fed up though does not equate leaving Twitter for a service that is doing something that you have absolutely no interest in. The only reason that the whole topic about people leaving Twitter is even coming up is that it is nearing the early adopter lifecycle of interest. Sure they might have stayed longer because of the time that they have invested in building up their network on the service but it almost seems that Twitter’s current problems are just a handy excuse for them to move on to the next shiny thing – in this case that being FriendFeed.
Those people who are only now coming into the Twitter stream to any degree aren’t being hobbled with the idolized attention that the early adopters heaped upon the service. For them this is a brand new ball game where the rules aren’t the same as it was for those that came before them. For these late adopters; the regular folk, Twitter will fill a need and during this time of transition Twitter will in fact have enough time to fix the problems they are having. Features that Twitter had while within the attention span of the early adopters but then were put in sleep mode for whatever reason will be something totally new for the late adopters when they are brought back online.
To assume that just because a very small segment of an already small segment of early adopters say that Twitter is dead in the water is wrong. It is wrong because Twitter as it moves to the mainstream is no longer for them. It has now become the playground for the rest of the internet travelers and chances are that once Twitter has fixed its problems a lot of those current naysayers will return even though chances are that Twitter will have changed in the meantime.
It is inevitable that parts of Twitter will change after all that is the way of development but it is equally true that FriendFeed will also change during its growth. That does not mean though that one will be better that the other or that one of the services will kill off the other. They both serve totally different needs. Yes we will have people who will use both but we will also have people who will use only one of them. That is the luxury of having personal choices that either or both of those services answer to and that is a good thing.
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