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Mixed reactions to FriendFeed overhaul

The social-network feed aggregator launched a new beta design. Some people don't like it. Some people do. Opinions don't seem to be too strong in either direction yet.

From what it looks like, the fresh, real-time streaming redesign of social aggregator FriendFeed is getting some accolades from already-avid users--but might not sway the masses.

Among existing FriendFeed loyalists, it doesn't look like there's much dissent about the redesign, which is currently available as a beta test. An "anti-FriendFeed beta version" group hasn't gotten much traction. But on Twitter, which some people see as a FriendFeed complement and others as a competitor, opinions were much more mixed.

"I have (Twitter client) TweetDeck to filter and organize noise. Why then would I still need FriendFeed?" inquired user @rbazinet.

"I'm not a fan of real-time scrolling sites like the new FriendFeed. Maybe I'm on the wrong side of history, but I find it distracting," said another user, @griner.

On the wrong side of history, quite possibly. Real-time streaming is the hot ticket in social networking these days, with "the stream" at the center of Facebook's controversial redesign.

And indeed, Facebook was first to the game. "Even after the redesign, I just don't find FriendFeed compelling. All of my 'friends' are on Facebook," said Twitter user @mikeee. Ever since it started introducing third-party information into its News Feed, Facebook has indeed been encroaching upon FriendFeed territory.

Twitter itself, meanwhile, doesn't live-stream your friends on its homepage, and third-party clients like Twhirl and Twitterrific tend to load incoming messages in groups rather than in real time because of Twitter's limits on how many times a third-party app can call up its servers. But if you run a query through Twitter Search, it'll keep hunting for the keywords and will alert you when new results have come in.

FriendFeed's redesign did get plenty of thumbs up. "Interesting to see FriendFeed focus on performance and UI (user interface) simplicity. They 'get it,'" said Twitter user @jimsimmons.

One thing we've seen with major social-networking overhauls--e.g. Facebook's last few redesigns--is that a swift backlash will often be met with eventual reception, whereas initial quiet can be deceptive if members start to gradually come across usability issues. This is still an optional beta, and often the particularly vociferous criticism doesn't come until after a new feature or design's public rollout.

From what it looks like so far, the reception to FriendFeed's redesign has been neither stellar nor terrible so far. But FriendFeed is a niche service right now; what it really needs to do is break out of Silicon Valley and start gaining quasi-mainstream appeal the way Twitter has. It's not clear that this redesign will be enough to accomplish that.