A website called FriendFeed shut down last week after years of being disassembled and neglected after Facebook bought them over. It’s been about 7 or 8 years since I first stumbled upon it. In its heydey, FriendFeed was a vibrant social network with realtime updating and interactions, it connected to all of your other social networks and provided all your updates in one place – so you didn’t need to traipse round half the internet to see what your friends were up to. The design was simple, the themes were fun (there was a Duck Hunt one with a flying duck you could “shoot” at – which was amusing for all of about 5 seconds, but still, it serves as a nice illustration of the “feel” of the site), and it worked seamlessly. Admittedly, it didn’t really take off with the masses – only with a few, but the few who used it absolutely fell in love with it.
I spent hours on FriendFeed and made friends with a lot of lovely (and awesome) people I’d never, ever have come across otherwise (I still keep in touch with them even years after we all stopped using FriendFeed) and I know that this is a sentiment that is shared with many from the FriendFeed community. For me, FriendFeed was a place to come and get away from it all, where I could confide, laugh, and see the world in a completely different way. I found a group of people who didn’t know anything about me in real life but we all connected in a way and FriendFeed almost encouraged silliness and fun – the fact that we could bounce ideas off each other in real time meant for some really lively conversations.
Everything was awesome until Facebook took over the company in 2009 – then it became the black sheep of the family. It seemed like things stopped working left and right and they’d be left like that for days or weeks (or in the case of the Advanced Search, just never get fixed). It became more unreliable, and as that sense crept in people lost hope that it’d be improved. The community started to dissipate (something that FriendFeed cited as one of the reasons for closing – a bit of a catch 22, I’d say).
Facebook took on some of the attributes of FriendFeed when they bought it over, but they changed them in ways to fit their own rigid design and almost seemed to take the soul out of them. Facebook is far removed from FriendFeed, despite having similar functionality when you boil it right down.
I logged back in just before it was closed down to salvage my posts and comments, and to save some memories (pages) from being lost in the ether. I was really surprised how much it made me reminisce about the days when I’d used it daily and the fondness I felt seeing the old site again (admittedly, I was mildly irritated to find that the search feature still hadn’t been fixed after about 3 years). I found some old posts that were downright hilarious, the group live-chats about Eurovision which had about 60 people involved from countries all around the world, silly posts about ridiculous things – we had a great time.
This may sound like I’m describing some kind of IRC chatroom uber-nerd session but I’m not, and that was the best thing about it – these were all regular people (OK, some of use were pretty nerdy). If you ask me, the internet lost something special in the closure of FriendFeed.