I know I have been quiet this week, but me and the family were moving again (don’t ask). Obviously, it has been an interesting week on the internet. Twittergate got tons of coverage for better or worse, but I am not really going to talk about that.
What I am going to talk about is the new Google Reader features. Google Reader is going even more social now. You can now easily follow more people, create groups of people and like items (instead of or in addition to sharing items). I have already seen a lot of “like” activity and I have a bunch of new followers and friend shares. Most of the coverage regarding the new features compare Reader to the Facebook changes. This is completely bizarre. Even when Facebook made their status updates more public and feature laden, it was compared to Twitter.
And don’t think Google Reader isn’t watching what is happening on other networks. The team has added on to the ability for friends to make comments on your shared items, enabling a “Like” feature, found not just on Facebook, but on FriendFeed and Socialmedian as well.
FriendFeed has had comments and likes for what seems like forever. They also have various “friend-of-a-friend” settings to determine how you see information. They were also the first ones to throw all of this into a real-time stream. Twitter has none of these features, but that is also why it is popular. Twitter is simple, I mean really simple. If Twitter is the equivalent of a high school diploma, FriendFeed is a Master’s degree. FriendFeed is definitely more complicated for new users and you have to create a brand new network of people. The real problem is that FriendFeed is too far ahead of the curve. They keep throwing all of these great ideas in front of people when they really aren’t read for them. FriendFeed may be a victim of timing in the long term. What do I mean by that?
Take a look at Facebook. They built a large userbase with a few features like the news streams and the wall posts. They saw Twitter and FriendFeed, and moved towards the status updates. Then they added comments and likes to the update stream. Then they made it more real-time. Most recently, they started changing everything to be more public. So, why am I complaining? If you look at Facebook today, there is very little difference between what they offer and what FriendFeed provides.
Google Reader is now doing the same thing. A few months ago, Reader added comments which basically fell flat. However, the new features have enabled a more social environment. Being able to find people more easily means you can quickly build your network. The ability to “like” items seems to be more amenable to most users as well. Most mornings, I see shares from only a few people. The sharing does not seem to have changed yet, but I am seeing a bunch of likes already within the first few days, and more comments as well. This is another case where an incremental improvement makes a huge difference.
So, FriendFeed is getting all of its features copied and they are getting very little credit for it. I hope that they continue innovating, because it will eventually pay off. They also have several evangelists in people like myself, Louis Gray and Robert Scoble. As more established sites copy FriendFeed features, FriendFeed has a harder battle to fight. They also have an excellent team, so they are well equipped moving forward. Now, they need one killer feature to reach their tipping point. By the end of the year we will see what the future holds for FriendFeed.