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‘Lifestreaming’ challenges social network hierachy

11 июня 2008

A new generation of social networking sites is gaining support in Silicon Valley, challenging the established models of leaders MySpace and Facebook.

FriendFeed, a service founded by the creators of Google Maps and Gmail, is at the head of an anarchic counter movement of “lifestreaming”, where users themselves aggregate and order their online social activities from multiple sources.

Since opening to the public in February, the service has won over leading bloggers and early adopters who feel Facebook is too structured and not sufficiently open to other services.

They have also become frustrated by frequent outages at Twitter, the popular micro-blogging service that has until now been a Web 2.0 darling.

David Hornik, a partner at Silicon Valley VC firm August Capital, says FriendFeed has gained the most traction among the new lifestreaming aggregation services, which include Plaxo, Iminta, Socialthing, Lifestream.fm and Zude.

But he warns that the established larger players will not give ground easily.

“Facebook, MySpace and Google are all fighting to be the aggregator of your social data. Being that social data backbone gives the ability to monetise. I think this is going to be a big battle and in many ways it’s the battle for the future of the web.”

FriendFeed, based in Mountain View, is a Frisbee throw from Google’s headquarters and its four founders were once key staff at the internet search leader.

Paul Buchheit developed its Gmail email service with Sanjeev Singh. The pair combined with venture capital firm Benchmark Capital to put $5m into their new company in February and enable its public launch. Bret Taylor and Jim Norris, the other co-founders, had launched Google Maps.

Mr Buchheit admits FriendFeed’s strategy has similarities to Google’s mission to organise all of the world’s information.

”We’re looking to use social mechanisms to help organise information and to bring [attention to] new things that are interesting,” he says.

FriendFeed works by pulling in and aggregating all of a user’s online social networking activity into a feed or list of events from as many as 35 services.

Examples would be an SMS-style text ”tweet” from Twitter, a photo uploaded to the Flickr sharing service or a blog note posted.

This ”newsfeed” was first popularised by Facebook but FriendFeed also adds the ability to comment next to anything posted, touching off lively discussions.

The service has been criticised as being hard to master for mainstream users and Mr Buchheit admits it is still in its early stages of development.

Statistics from web research firms Compete and Hitwise put monthly unique visitors at 150,000 and average time spent on the site rising from three minutes to eight minutes between April and May.

Not quite a FriendFeeding frenzy but numbers that suggest the service could dominate the new category.

Источник: Financial Times

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