FriendFeed: Wouldn’t it be loverly…

For those of you who’ve never heard of FriendFeed, carry on.

For those of you who are on it now–whether as part of The Library Society of the World or within other communities–nothing I say here will likely surprise you.

Facebook let us know that it’s shutting down FriendFeed on April 9, 2015. They gave us about a month’s warning, time enough to download our conversations if we chose.

I’m not attacking Facebook here. Fact is, since Facebook purchased FriendFeed (primarily for its people and software, I assumed) in 2009, we–those of us who use FriendFeed–have always assumed (I think) that eventually FriendFeed would go away. Facebook waited six years to do that, and FriendFeed was only about two years old when Facebook purchased it.

So Facebook is fully within its rights and has been remarkably patient. Facebook’s certainly correct that FriendFeed doesn’t have Facebook-size numbers (as far as I know, it peaked at around seven million members and is probably far below that now). It’s never been a big revenue item, especially since Facebook’s never seen fit to run ads either in a sidebar or within the stream.

I’ve written a draft essay for Cites & Insights on FriendFeed and LSW. The essay will appear in the May 2015 Cites & Insights, which will be out right around April 9 (maybe a few days earlier, maybe not).

But wouldn’t it be loverly if the essay turned out to be premature? That is, if Facebook decided that the good will of a few hundred library folks, a few hundred scientists, no doubt thousands of folks in different formal and informal groups, and apparently fairly large numbers of folks in Turkey and elsewhere, justified keeping a server or two running and, as needed, restarting the service when it keels over?

I know I’d like Facebook better if it made that decision. (Make it possible for me to *keep* the Facebook stream at “most recent” without resetting it every day or using an add-on and I’d like Facebook even better, but that’s another discussion.)

I honestly can’t imagine that FriendFeed is costing Facebook all that much at this point. There hasn’t been any apparent software development in some time (and I’m certainly not asking for any).

See, the thing is, FriendFeed just works for LSW both as its oddly open and totally disorganized group of between a few dozen and 1,400-odd library folks and in the interactions many of us library folk have with others in the FriendFeed community. That may be partly because FriendFeed doesn’t have big user numbers. It may be because the software is elegant in its straightforward nature.

The funny thing is, many of us (I believe) really don’t use FriendFeed the way it was apparently originally intended: To feed it all of our various social media streams (Twitter, FB, blogs, etc.) and follow all the activity of our friends in one place. Some feeds still show up, but a lot of what makes FriendFeed worthwhile is conversation–logically threaded, easy to handle, all that.

I’ve seen a lot of professional questions raised and answered on FriendFeed. I’ve seen a lot of personal issues raised and in many cases helped with. I’ve seen one person encouraged to go to library school, mentored during library school, assisted with a post-graduation trip…and cheered on as he’s become an ALA Emerging Leader. I’ve done my own asking and answering. And LSW on FriendFeed, more than anything else, keeps me involved with the library community (and the open access community, for that matter).

For some reason–maybe the lack of size–it’s been easier to deal with trolls and spammers on FriendFeed than elsewhere. Maybe that’s because it’s always felt symmetrical: people who engaged in snark could reasonably expect to get snark back, and I never felt as though there was a hierarchy of FriendFeed users.

So there’s my probably useless plea:

Facebook: Keep FriendFeed running. We’ll appreciate it.

And, if not, at least some of us appreciate the six years’ extra life you’ve already given it.

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