Thoughts on FriendFeed and lifestreaming

fflogo.jpgReadWriteWeb has a post comparing FriendFeed to a competitor still in private beta, SocialThing! (I don’t think it is really a comparison post because there is very little information about SocialThing!). I signed up for FriendFeed a week or two ago and it is a great lifestreaming service and does a couple things that appeal to me. For one thing there is a commenting feature which makes it possible to comment more meaningfully on items that may not have commenting features built in natively (a good example is Tumblr which lacks a commenting feature or even services like which are perhaps less about discussion and more about one way sharing). One benefit of something like FriendFeed which I think I have started taking for granted is the following:

FriendFeed has a bit of a head start, but even barring that, there are more intuitive features in place despite its visual shortcomings. The most notable is that it links you to your friends’ content even if you don’t have access to a particular service. The reason is that when you friend someone on FriendFeed, that person has generated an actual account on the service, so they’ve elected to port in all of their desired feeds. So my friends can read my Ma.gnolia links even if they’re a users and vice versa. It’s in this feature that its real power lies.

With all the excitement about FriendFeed and the lifestreaming’s sudden uptake, it is important to bear in mind that lifestreaming has been around for at least a year or so in the form of services like Jaiku and, more recently, Plaxo Pulse (there are ongoing upgrades and improvements to Pulse so be sure to check back there often if you use the service and consider signing up if you don’t already).

I’ve been talking about lifestreaming for a while now and there seems to be a looming tension between content centralised on a single site (whether that be a blog, wiki or personalised/niche social network) and content that is distributed across a number of lifestreaming services. I have had most of my content streaming into Jaiku, Pulse and FriendFeed for a while now and I am curious to see whether the distributed model gains traction and I will start receiving comments on my comment in those lifestreaming services rather than on the source services? Certainly with content sources like my tumblelog, that is pretty much the only way to comment on posts (at least until Tumblr adds commenting).

If this shift does happen then we will probably see new advertising models emerge with the drop in page views and attention paid to the source sites generally. I am not sure how you would monetise a lifestream being run through a 3rd party service. Perhaps a revenue share option?

Another issue which I want to explore further is content licensing on lifestreaming services. There doesn’t seem to be much attention given to this at the moment but it is an important issue for people who, like me, license their content under something like a Creative Commons license. The services’ own terms regarding how content is to be licensed on their site will be important because they may seek to override a user’s own content licensing preferences. In fact, this will be an issue regardless of whether users retain all rights under copyright or they license their content under specific licenses. Either way, I’d like to see these services facilitate these licensing options.

I see lifestreaming becoming more prominent as services like FriendFeed become more popular and as that happens, it will be pretty interesting to see how advertising models shift and how people manage their content in this context.

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