Facebook appears to be an unstoppable juggernaut of a website. It has already dwarfed all of its social media peers, but that, it seems, just isn’t enough. With the acquisition of FriendFeed, Facebook may have just played their greatest masterstroke.
There’s probably a fair percentage of people reading this who don’t have the first idea what FriendFeed is; don’t worry, you’re far from alone. Essentially, FriendFeed is a real-time aggregator; pulling in news and updates from various sources and channelling through a single hub. The instantaneous feed has bought many comparisons to Twitter, but before it could really get huge, it has been snaffled up by Facebook.
So what’s in this for Facebook? Well, they now have a site that has been a major innovator in the world of real-time updates. For some time they’ve been mirroring a number of their technologies – perhaps hinting at an earlier deal, or at least some kind of accord – and have been pushing real-time aggregation. Now, with the knowledge of their experts on board, Facebook can go about implementing wholesale changes.
But why do Facebook need to make wholesale changes in the first place? Yes, they’re already by far and away the most popular social networking site; however, it is very much an industry that progresses at apace so staying still is akin to stagnating. The progress of Twitter would have made them an ideal candidate for a real-time acquisition, but due to their own explosive growth, the cost:value ratio is rapidly levelling. Therefore, FriendFeed becomes the perfect target.
FriendFeed is still relatively small. It has seen a gradual rise into the top 1,000 websites in the world, but very much maintains a cultish level of popularity. Twitter has eclipsed it in terms of widespread marketing and has therefore had a far better pick-up rate. But this of course has now played right into the hands of Facebook.
Whilst there aren’t any figures available regarding the deal, it is believed that Facebook will be taking over operations and integrating the FriendFeed staff with their own. This of course means that they will be inheriting some of the brightest minds in the social networking ether, allowing Facebook to really take on the real-time aggregation challenge.
The colossal rise of Facebook has seen it become the largest non-search site in the world. Sitting comfortably in fourth position in the Alexa rankings, if they’re going to continue their growth they need further innovation. This deal could ultimately be more beneficial than any Twitter tie-in and will help Facebook remain relevant for years to come.
Real-time appears to be what the industry is gravitating towards. Only last week I reported on Google developing the PubSubHubbub aggregator for their Reader tool. Microsoft Bing has also developed a real-time search tie-in with Twitter, beating both Yahoo and Google to the punch. Facebook has also included a real-time home page feed, in recent months; but that could now only be the tip of the iceberg.
Interesting times ahead; not least to see how this ultimately affects Twitter and the other social media sites. Can Facebook now become the ultimate central social hub? Will the purchase of FriendFeed just prove to be another drop in the ocean?