The Pitch: FriendFeed cofounder Bret Taylor Silicon Valley start-upFriendFeed aggregates social feeds and user-generated content. But that's not all the company will do, says its cofounder in an interview with Webware's Rafe Needleman.
^M00:00:01 [ Music ] ^M00:00:05 >> With FriendFeed of course it's about sharing things you find on the Web with people you know. The unique part about FriendFeed is you know is that you can connect it to the websites you already use and will automatically pick up all the stuff you've shared on these websites automatically; so if you already use YouTube we can pick up all the videos you favored on YouTube automatically so you don't need to change your existing habits for your friends on FriendFeed to benefit from those. Or if you already use Google reader and you read an interesting by clips you can just click share directly in Google reader and it will show up in FriendFeed as well. The trend that we became really interested in, the sort of like high-level thing that motivated the product originally, was just the proliferation of user-generated content, the people are getting their information from a variety of sources. They're still getting it from their local newspaper but their also getting analysis from bloggers from all over the world; thousands of bloggers. I mean they're still watching TV on NBC every night but they're also watching YouTube videos made by people they never heard of and in countries they may not have heard of. And so the act of actually finding the interesting blog post, analyzing the Pennsylvania primary, or the interesting video that's like compatible with your sense of humor is actually really difficult. There has been a lot of effort put in to tools for people to make this content from blogging platforms, to YouTube to whatever. But there hasn't been really what we consider a really scalable way of actually finding the interesting stuff so we think that the best filter for that information are people you know, or people whose interest you find compelling. So FriendFeed is really you view all the shared items from people you know or people you find interesting, and sort of that slice of the Web that's filtered by people you know. And so it's really all about sort of discovering interesting content through the eyes of people you know. >> What you're describing sounds a little bit more than what FriendFeed does right now. >> That's correct. We're definitely not done. And so we you know we started off with something that I think was relatively simple and you know something that we could get out the door and iterate on, but I think that we have a lot of work to do to make it what we want it to be. >> So what's coming up? >> You know I think one of the main things we'd like to do is more intelligent technology to digest the information on your behalf that's in your feed. Some people who have a lot of subscriptions on FriendFeed, I've found that they subscribe to a lot of people and there's a whole bunch of information there. >> Overload. >> Yeah and it's quite overwhelming for some people. We put in some tools and we have spent a lot of effort to make it possible to hide the things you're not interested in, so if you haven't touched FriendFeed in a week what you want to get from it is probably different than if you checked it every couple of minutes. So we've been putting a lot of effort into some user interfaces and some technologies to make it possible to get the right sort of synopsis or the right summary of information based on your--how much time you have, if you're already into media and just want to get a quick fix or you're bored and you want to click around for an hour. So we have a lot of work to do there but a lot of them are still sort of in the development stages. >> So my critique, I think it is an interesting product but my critique of it has been that if I want to follow you on FriendFeed you have to add yourself to FriendFeed. Now there's this invisible friend thing, imaginary friend, will that's too much work. >> Yeah, yeah it is. >> So what do you say to somebody--it's a great tool but all my Tudor [assumed spelling] friends who I'm following are not my FriendFeed friends. >> Yeah that's a really good point. I think we should put some more effort into this and probably have a different point of view on this, but the thing is that one of the most compelling aspects of FriendFeed is not only getting the content but socializing around the content. So when you share a YouTube video everyone you subscribed to can see that and then they can comment on it. And FriendFeed, the thing that's actually motivated most of our growth and most of the buzz from a lot of the like the bloggers for example that really take into the product are these discussions. Part of it comes from the fact that these discussions are limited to the social group of the person who shared the item. So all the people who can see and participate in the discussion of your YouTube video, the people subscribed to you which are sort of by definition the people that you know, or maybe since you're a journalist maybe it's just people find you interesting, but for most people it's people who know them right. And so the discussion is among people who all know each other as opposed to the discussion on blogs which are people who probably have never met each other. The analogy I like to use is like a blog is sort of like a radio show that takes in callers, and the people that comment on a lot of these blogs are on CNET or are people that sort of like to hear themselves talk, and tend to sort of espouse the most extreme points of view and sometimes can get quite nasty; particularly on places like YouTube which is sort of notorious for having the worst comments ever. The comments on FriendFeed because it's among people who know each other, are actually pretty interesting discussions and it amounts more to like being at a bar with friends or being at like a Thanksgiving dinner arguing about politics with your family. >> But it's still a set in place you have to check. >> So yeah though it turns out that for a lot of these things this is really the only place that some of these discussions can take place; and I'll just give you an example--if you share a New York Times article on FriendFeed, you can have a private discussion with people you know about that New York Times article. New York Times is one of the few articles that do offer the ability to provide comments are completely a public forum and for most people they're not necessarily interested in participating in a public discussion because chiefly this is about a controversial issue like politics. But they would be very interested in discussing the latest poll results with people they know because it becomes like a really intelligent, pretty civilized discussion among people they know. There are some places where this is another place to check but I think a lot more users have found that sort of semi-private defined by your social group place to discuss the shared items is actually a pretty unique thing; not necessarily something offered on some of these websites just because there tend to be a lot of public forums, and I think that's really what's driven our growth today. And so going back to your original question about this you know not all of my friends use FriendFeed, that's certainly something that a lot of our competitors have really focused on but the one downside to that is if you add that person's Tudor [assumed spelling] account, it's not necessarily--you can't interact with them very easily. >> How many other services? >> Well you know they couldn't participate in these sort of private discussions and they wouldn't know if you found their shared YouTube video interesting; there's really no mechanism to do that. And so we really focused on making the people that are using Friend Feed, making it very easy for them to participate in these discussions, but it's something I think we could do a lot more work to make it better for their input.