Friendfeed and GigaOm announce closures as Apple launches new products

While Apple launched new products including MacBooks and Watches, two pioneering services announced they would be closing. Friendfeed was a useful social network which combined short updates similar to Twitter with the ability to easily collect and aggregate your content from a huge variety of sources, into one feed. It launched back in 2007, and the service and team had been acquired by Facebook in 2009.

FriendFeedLogo

There’s no official news beyond the April 2015 closure date, but there is some unofficial code on Github to export your data if you wish.

And at the same time, one of the first big independent tech blogs has ceased operations. GigaOm originally launched in the mid-2000s, and became a full time job for founder Om Malik in 2006. It since acquired PaidContent, launched a paid Research area and various events etc.

GigaOm Logo

It’s sad news for those of us who have followed the site closely for 8+ years, and for the team of around 70 employees, although it may be wound down, acquired or who knows what else. It is known that the latest $8 million round of funding took place 12 months ago, but it has ceased operations due to being unable to pay creditors.

Whilst it’s unfortunate for all involved, including the millions of readers, it’s important to remember that the closure of GigaOm is more a reflection of the economics of an individual business. FriendFeed, meanwhile, reflects the trend for social network acquisition by the big players in the space – Facebook obviously went on to pick up Instagram and WhatsApp with far, far larger userbases and bigger brands.

A recap on the original three microblogging platforms.

Once upon a time, there were three prominent microblogging platforms, Twitter, Plurk and Jaiku. One became incredibly popular, one introduced a side-on view, and one was acquired and then released by the Google Fairy Godmother.

Others fell by the wayside, including Pownce, and Rejaw.

But how do they compare now, after the mainstream adoption of Twitter:

Obviously this doesn’t tell the complete story, as it tracks web visits only, but it’s safe to assume it’s proportionally correct. Twitter’s close to 25 million Unique Visitors, Plurk is holding steady between 250,000-300,000 for the past year, and Jaiku has dropped from 70,000 down to 30-40,000 for the last two months measured.

In fact, it’s not even winning the Open Source Microblogging Platform war – as Identi.ca has grown slightly while Jaiku declined.

Meanwhile, Google has listed the 46 official accounts it has on Twitter.

And in the meantime, we’ve seen the rise of Twitter clients such as Tweetdeck, internal microblogging such as Yammer,  the blend of micro and macro blogging in Tumblr and Posterous, and video and audio blogging with the likes of 12 seconds and Audioboo. Not forgetting the lifestreaming element of the likes of Friendfeed.

And although we talk about forums, blogs and Web 2.0 social networks as if they’ve reached the endpoint of their evolution, there’s still a lot more to come from them – I’d say the social elements of the web aren’t even 15% of what they’ll become in the next 10 years.

The question is how you as a person, you as a company, or you as a developer can find clarity through it all…

(There is also the question fo what Google were thinking re: Jaiku, and how it’s managing to miss out on the rise of Open Source as much as it did on the rise of microblogging – after all, the platform itself doesn’t appear to be the cause)

Pepsi Cola promoting Twitter – Well done or raw?

So Pepsi has included a Twitter tag printed on 1.4 million cans of the new Pepsi Raw drink here in the UK.

Firstly, it’s great to see something new being done in the UK by a multinational, rather than watching the U.S. from afar. The account is @pepsiraw, there’s also a website (pepsiraw.co.uk), and a Facebook page.

Pepsi Raw by dhsingadia on Flickr (CC Licence)

Pepsi Raw by dhsingadia on Flickr (CC Licence)

Now, I have to admit I have my doubts about whether this will be done effectively. For starters, I wrote a post last year on my marketing blog about ‘How Coke and Pepsi are wasting their online strategy‘ – it was kickstarted by Pepsi’s outreach to prominent bloggers and promotion of The Pepsi Cooler friendfeed room.  The fact that contributions were onlyposted byPepsi staff and all comments are held for moderation during U.S. working hours made for a pretty stilted attempt at conversation. And now it just repeats the @pepsico Twitter account (With just 2335 followers).

The early signs for @pepsiraw aren’t much better. One reply from 20 messages since April 23, 2009, with the rest simply broadcasting the next location where free samples are being given out. And so far just 363 people have deemed it worth following.

The lesson here is that is doesn’t matter whether Pepsi gave out 1 can with the Twitter address or 1.4 million. As somone who drinks a ridiculous amount of caffeinated soft drinks, and was intrigued to try Raw, I found the address, looked at the tiny amount of non-replies, and then went and had conversations with other people.

The question is whether it will change if more followers appear or will the Raw Twitter promotion stay underdone?

Add comments with your Twitter profile, or video comments via Seesmic

One of the things I’ve had on my ‘todo’ list for quite a while was to revisit the various ways to connect my blog and related discussions and comments to the various social networks where they might be happening.

So I’ve now got Disqus running, which means you can log in and post comments via your Twitter and Facebook profiles, or even video comments with Seesmic. It will also hopefully aggregate any discussion taking place on sites including Friendfeed, which is also useful for getting an overview of all the conversations happening.

I’m also playing around with link posting via both Diigo and Delicious, and some other backend tools.

The end result should be a better and far more useful 140char.com for you – and hopefully some better and more efficient ways to share information for me!

Comment with your Twitter/Facebook profiles

I’ve finally started upgrading the back end of this blog to start tackling the increasingly important issue of connecting with the discussions posts can prompt in a myriad of places.

Whereas discussion was generally confined to the Comments section in days of old, now it can spring up on Twitter, Facebook, Friendfeed etc.

As a commenter, I’ve found Backtype to be useful for aggregating the comments I’ve made, but when it came to starting to tie it all together here, Disqus was an obvious, and easy choice to install and start using.

All of the comments made directly have now been imported into the new system, and I’ve added the ability to post with your Twitter and Facebook usernames, as well as importing discussion around a post from locations like Friendfeed. You can even post a video comment via Seesmic.

I’ve also installed a Disqus widget to show the Top Commenters, Recent Comments and Popular Comments, so you should see that start to hopefully fill out in the next few days in the right side bar.

In addition, I’ve also started combining my saved bookmarks by posting to both Diigo and Delicious, to provide some cloud-based backup and to see which is the best route for publishing any links I want to share – as well as looking at which plugins/widgets might be contributing to long loading times.

All aimed at providing a better service to you, the readers that make all this worthwhile, so let me know if there’s anything you’d suggest, or things you think I should definitely keep or get rid of!

Some interesting thoughts on Twitter and Friendfeed

Before you get back to work on Monday (or for some reading before you get down to working), there have been a few interesting and thought-provoking posts I’ve spotted:

Robert Scoble posted 10 reasons why Twitter direct messages suck, which I expected to disagree with, but he made a lot of sense in explaining why the amount of messages he receives means that he realistically has to ignore them – he can’t autorespond, file, filter, or mass delete, so it becomes unworkable.

Stowe Boyd then takes it and runs further, to outline how the problem could result in an opportunity to earn some revenue for Twitter, around improving the integration and functionality of direct messaging for those willing to pay $5 a month.

My thought is that it’s a very small group who need these features as an absolute necessity, but a larger number might be persuaded they need them. It’s certainly something I could see Twitter exploring, and I suspect that by offering it as a Freemium service, they could avoid some of the ‘sell-out’ accusations that display advertising will generate.

I’m not sure it’s enough to please the VCs and justify the valuation of Twitter – but I’m increasingly convinced that there isn’t a sole revenue stream that provides a complete solution – and it could be a mixture which becomes the answer.

The other thought piece I thought was worth repeating was Dave Winer on The Space Between Twitter and FriendFeed. Is there room for something that exists with a more graphic and visual system than Twitter, but without some of the complexity of Friendfeed which can put users off?

Obviously this wasn’t Pownce. But could it be a direction for Plurk, which already has a far more visual interface? Or one of the services I have to admit to overlooking a little in the influx of clones, copies and variations, such as Rejaw? And would it be enough to achieve the most important and challenging part of taking on Twitter – getting critical mass? Friendfeed is different enough to fulfill a slightly different function and have an identity away from microblogging, but would something in the Friendfeed/Twitter chasm be cursed by being too much of one or the other?

I’m not the only one questioning Pepsi’s Unfriendlyfeed

A few days ago I wrote about the efforts by Pepsi and Coca-Cola to engage their consumers in different ways – Pepsi chose social media, whilst Coca-Cola chose a loyalty reward scheme. And yet they are both making mistakes big enough for me to post ‘How Coke and Pepsi are wasting their online strategy‘.

It’s not surprising that other people are also questioning the policy, like Todd Jordan with his post ‘Pepsi – Are you listening‘ (Found when he mentioned it on Twitter – @Tojosan). Interestingly his post appears to have been picked up by Josh Karpf from Pepsi, commenting as Josh.

It’s good that that someone at Pepsi has picked up on the post, but Josh is repeating the same things many people have already heard:

‘We’re listening, Todd–and making efforts to do just what you are saying.’

‘We need to find a better way to aggregate and share fans’ passion for the company.’

‘As for the Friendfeed room, it was never intended to live as a standalone communications platform for PepsiCo. It’s one of many “outposts” we have launched, and intend to launch going forward as part of our ongoing digital plans. We are actively taking in feedback from across the web and starting to join in on conversations outside of the room, which you may have noticed.’

‘We do need to moderate comments to some extent to make sure profanity is removed. However, we do not moderate at all based on things we do or don’t like.’

‘We are going to introduce more new voices into the room from inside and outside the company very soon. I agree that we need to be more engaged in fan-based communities beyond ones that are launched inside the company. You surely understand that this is a first step for us; and we are moving towards becoming far more open, inclusive, and “closer” to our consumers.’

All pleasant enough, and I’m sure Josh is a nice enough guy. And with people like Steve Rubel involved, you’d hope they’ve got an idea of where they can improve.

But it really doesn’t take that much effort to start making improvements right away – like opening the Friendfeed Room up to everyone. I don’t want more voices inside and outside the company. I want all voices by anyone who has anything interesting to say – and that’s what Pepsi should want too!

They can still moderate, either pre, or preferably post comment. But how on earth do they expect to get closer to a community by dictating strict topics for discussion once every few days? It’s like walking up to the community and shout “You will engage, You will engage, You will engage!” over and over and over.

Funnily enough, although the FriendFeed room is quiet, Twitter has 11 messages mentioning Pepsi in the last 20 minutes via Twitter Search. And in the whole front page there’s not a single message containing profanity.

None of page 2 or 3 either. Mainly because people are treating each other like adults!

And look Pepsi! Look at a blog search for Pepsi and Friendfeed!

  1. Pepsi are you listening? by Todd Jordan
  2. How Coke and Pepsi are wasting their online strategy by Me!
  3. Why blogger outreach can fail by Virginia Nussey
  4. Pepsi’s social media challenge by Jason Lee Miller (focusing on the lack of new suggestions generated)
  5. Pepsi asked for my thoughts by CC Chapman

Responding in the comments of the first or second post is fine, but by the third and fourth I’d be looking to make some immediate changes. After all links 5 and 6 were posted on November 12, 2008. Mine was on November 28th, and Todd’s was today. That’s almost a month without any obvious changes.

Maybe it’s time?

Pepsi can by schnaars (CC licence)

Pepsi can by schnaars (CC licence)

Six Apart acquire Pownce – to kill it in 2 weeks.

In a slightly bizarre move, blogging platform Six Apart (Movable Type, Typepad and Vox) has acquired Pownce  for an undisclosed sum – and it’s immediately been announced Pownce will be closed on December 15th, 2008 – just two weeks away.

The news has been revealed on the offical Pownce blog ‘Goodbye Pownce, Hello Six Apart‘, written by Leah Culver:

” We’re bittersweet about shutting down the service but we believe we’ll come back with something much better in 2009. We love the Pownce community and we will miss you all….

*snip*

We’ll be closing down the main Pownce website two weeks from today, December 15th. Since we’d like for you to have access to all your Pownce messages, we’ve added an export function. Visit pownce.com/settings/export/ to generate your export file. You can then import your posts to other blogging services such as Vox, TypePad, or WordPress.

For our Pro members, we’ll be emailing you soon with more information about your Pro account.”

The post explains Mike Malone and Leah Culver will join Six Apart’s engineering team. Anthony Ha at VentureBeat has said that Digg founder Kevin Rose and Digg employee Daniel Burka who were also responsible for Digg will now be advisors to Six Apart.

The official Six Apart blog offers those who paid for a Pownce Pro account a free Typepad account for a year.

You can see some of the latest messages from users on the Pownce homepage.

You can see the responses from Twitter users on the Pownce closure.

There’s a FriendFeed room set up for PownceExiles to reconnect.

Interestingly, @nickdawson has spotted: http://postpownce.com/ – could be official or fan created. The Whois lookup isn’t particularly helpful, but it looks slightly unofficial so far.

Meanwhile, there’s a surprisingly amount of people using Pownce as normal, although there’s obviously a significant number who are either thanking the Pownce team, or expressing their anger – and it seems like users are mainly migrating to Twitter, with a few mentions of FriendFeed.

Strangely, Twitter has the mass user group and VC funding, but Pownce had direct revenue streams already in place, with paid membership upgrades and advertising.Meanwhile Jaiku, Plurk, Identi.ca etc are all continuing, as far as I’m aware, without a mass surge in users or a revenue model that has been revealed. Will any other microblogging services be under threat in the coming months?

I’ve blogged about my lack of enthusiasm for Digg several times over at TheWayoftheWeb, but I don’t think it’s necessarily about the Pownce team ‘failing’ – it’s likely that the impending financial situation, and an attractive offer may have been too tempting to turn down. But it does reinforce my opinion of Kevin Rose’s companies as lacking a bit of customer service – two weeks for people to leave Pownce and shut the door behind them isn’t particularly accomodating.

You can see part of the justification for the closure:

It may be U.S. traffic only, but it’s a pretty fair representation.

Interestingly, from a closer look at the numbers, it suggests that from the ‘big four’, Jaiku would be the next logical service for the chopping block – with Plurk leading the ‘Everything except for Twitter’ group.

My two thoughts are that perhaps the team behind Pownce weren’t seeing the growth they hoped for, and with Twitter being open about monetizing next year, it seemed a good time to exit with some money.

And that perhaps the move to greater federation (e.g. Facebook Connect etc), and aggregation (posting via clients or apps to multiple locations), the prospects of success for a relatively small microblogging platform were diminishing – especially with new services offering the chance to set up private groups (Twingr.com), and services like Drop.io simplifying file sharing.

From a personal point of view, the file sharing aspect wasn’t enough for me to devote enough time on Pownce to build a big community, but I did enjoy popping in for short visits on occasion, and I’m definitely sad to see any microblogging/microsharing service closed suddenly, and without any warning.

I’m not looking for the wisdom of crowds…

I’m looking for the wisdom of MY crowd.

A thought that occurred to me commenting on a Robert Scoble post.

  • I use Google Reader because I’ve selected the inputs.
  • I get news from the people I’ve selected on Twitter and Friendfeed
  • I get personal news from the people I’ve selected on Facebook.
  • I don’t use Digg etc as much as I might because it’s the wisdom of a random crowd I haven’t selected.