FriendFeed features that Facebook needs to absorb

Does Facebook's acquisition of FriendFeed mean we're going to see some FriendFeed features coming to Facebook soon? We examine a few that would work.

Josh Lowensohn Former Senior Writer
Josh Lowensohn joined CNET in 2006 and now covers Apple. Before that, Josh wrote about everything from new Web start-ups, to remote-controlled robots that watch your house. Prior to joining CNET, Josh covered breaking video game news, as well as reviewing game software. His current console favorite is the Xbox 360.
Josh Lowensohn
4 min read

Monday's news that social giant Facebook is acquiring the less than two-year old FriendFeed included an important postscript: "FriendFeed.com will continue to operate normally for the time being as the teams determine the longer term plans for the product." But for FriendFeed users, the future seems unclear. Will development on the service be discontinued as the now Facebook-employed FriendFeed creators have been tapped to work on a bigger, and more popular social-networking site? Probably.

What is likely to happen is that many of FriendFeed's killer features become features on Facebook, with FriendFeed eventually shutting its doors to focus on Facebook development. So what are those FriendFeed features Facebook doesn't have, or that FriendFeed simply does better?

Search: One of the most important features FriendFeed has (that Facebook doesn't) is a really solid search engine. On FriendFeed you can search for content from your friends, or the entire world. The best part is, you can save any search you've made and keep an eye on it for updates. Facebook's search is currently focused more on finding people, along with navigating to various parts of its site like events, pages, and applications. Update: Scratch this one off the list. Hours after this post went live, Facebook began pushing an updated version of its search engine that indexes updates and other content. At least for the past 30 days, which is a good start.

FriendFeed's search is real time, and content-centric. Something similar for Facebook could yield good results. CNET

Real real time. FriendFeed's real time is a constant flow of information that comes in as soon as the service can get it to you. On Facebook, you get a little reminder to refresh the stream when there are updates. FriendFeed's way of letting users avoid an overload is to simply put the stream on pause--something Facebook could soon adopt.

Content aggregation. Facebook's "highlights" section of its home page does its best to show you new or otherwise interesting things from your friends if they've liked something. It feels like an afterthought though. FriendFeed's solution is to create a "best of the day" which shows the most popular and fresh content that your friends like. It can also be filtered by day, week and month, which lets you get a quick digest of content without having to keep your eyeballs glued to the news feed.

IM integration. I've knocked this feature in the past for being noisy, but for some it's useful. FriendFeed's IM integration can give you the heads up when someone likes one of your posts, or simply posts new content. It's also got a deep list of commands that let you interact with content on the site, all without actually having to go there. For instance, if you see someone has commented on something you just posted, you get that notification in an IM, and can leave a retort. This is great for continuing to use the service in places where the site itself may be blocked like work or school.

Any item on FriendFeed can be tracked through IM. The IM system also lets users interact with the content without having to visit the site. CNET

Discussion tracking. FriendFeed lets you keep an eye on anything you've commented on. This means that if you dropped in to leave a comment it makes a note of that and gives you a very simple way to get back to that conversation. Facebook does this to a degree, but it's via e-mail, and there's no quick return path to get back to those conversations. Not to mention, you can use the aforementioned IM integration to get a quick update on a reply, without filling up your in-box, and without having to go back to the site to add another reply.

Themes. Facebook has long been the king of vanilla. You don't like blue on white? Tough luck, go download a browser add-on. FriendFeed on the other hand, recently embraced themes that can skin the entire experience. It was also opened up to third parties to design their own, letting anyone browse the site with a visual style of their preference. Is Facebook likely to embrace this right away? Probably not, but FriendFeed sure did a great job of adding it to its own site, and with other big products from Google like Gmail and Calendar getting themes, it's a big trend to ignore.

FriendFeed's themes let users skin the experience, something Facebook does not currently offer. CNET

File sharing. To share files on Facebook, you have to use one of Facebook's granular applications like photos, or videos. You can use third party tools for items that fall outside of that, but that puts the hosting and control outside of Facebook's realm. On FriendFeed you can upload all sorts of file types just for sharing purposes. Users then download them to view, listen, or watch on their own machines.

Admittedly file sharing is probably not something Facebook would have too hard a time cooking up on its own, but after seeing all the internal data on how FriendFeeders have been using it, Facebook will have something to work with if it chooses to expand how it handles posting or sending media.

Any we left off? Leave them in the comments.