Facebook Buys FriendFeed: What Does It Mean?

Facebook is acquiring content-sharing service FriendFeed, the two companies have confirmed. The entire FriendFeed team of 12 will transition to Facebook, with the four founders taking on senior engineering roles. The value of the deal has not been disclosed.

Inside FriendFeed

Despite strong buzz in the blogosphere, FriendFeed was never able to gain much in the way of mainstream appeal -- in fact, your average social network user probably hasn't even heard of it. It has developed somewhat of a cult following, though, with many tech insiders adopting it and singing its praises. And the team behind FriendFeed has quite the impressive collective résumé.

FriendFeed was founded in 2007 by four former Googlers: Bret Taylor, Jim Norris, Paul Buchheit, and Sanjeev Singh. Before leaving Google, the guys helped design and launch several well-known products, including Gmail, Google Maps, and Google Groups.

FriendFeed was their vision for a centralized sharing service -- kind of like Facebook, only without all the extra stuff. It's basically a content aggregator: You set up an account and connect it to all of your different online services. Then, anytime you post a new update on Twitter, vote up a story on Digg, or write a new blog, it automatically goes through to your FriendFeed stream. People who subscribe to your stream see the updates roll in in real-time and can comment on and discuss them.

The FriendFeed-Facebook Friendship

Over the past months, Facebook has little by little begun to emulate many of FriendFeed's key functions. The ability to "like" items, for example, was a signature FriendFeed feature. Facebook's introduction of a real-time news stream was also largely viewed as a response to FriendFeed's own real-time stream.

Inside the Acquisition

So with the two services merging together, what will change? That part isn't yet fully clear, but a few hints are being dropped. FriendFeed's Taylor suggests that more FriendFeed features will eventually come to the Facebook platform, saying his team will "have the opportunity to bring many of the innovations [it's] developed at FriendFeed to Facebook's 250 million users around the world." The FriendFeed service itself will remain independent and intact -- for now.

"FriendFeed.com will continue to operate normally for the time being," Taylor explains in a blog posted Monday afternoon. "We're still figuring out our longer-term plans for the product with the Facebook team."

Robert Scoble, a blogger and Internet developer widely regarded as FriendFeed's most vocal cheerleader, conducted a phone interview with FriendFeed's Buchheit (published, fittingly, to his FriendFeed stream). In the interview, Buchheit says the deal was completed only this morning. He calls it a "tremendous opportunity" that FriendFeed recognized might not come along again.

"We had no reason to sell the company," he tells Scoble. "We could have continued for quite a number of years."

Buchheit reiterates that no long-term plans have been finalized. He does, however, imply that FriendFeed's current incarnation may not vanish entirely.

"We're completely committed to supporting the users of FriendFeed. We obviously don't want to leave them stranded," he states. "In the long term, we'll have to figure out some plan that makes sense."

Scoble himself calls the deal a "huge win for both companies." His own FriendFeed page is already peppered with more than 200 comments discussing the acquisition.

JR Raphael shows his less serious side at eSarcasm, his new geek humor site. You can also catch him on Twitter: @jr_raphael.

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