Facebook, the leading global social network, dropped a bomb on the sociosphere on Monday by announcing they had bought the very innovative social streaming service called Friendfeed. I gave an interview to Marketing Magazine (Canada’s Advertising Age) explaining the rationale behind the acquisition. Here are the highlights:

  • First and foremost, Facebook bought a great engineering team and excellent technology assets. The 12 Friendfeed employees and co-founders were innovating at a breakneck speed. Two of the co-founders, Bret Taylor and Paul Buchheit, used to work at Google where they respectively created Google Maps and Gmail.
  • It’s all about the search war. Google vs. Facebook. Algorithmic search vs. real-time search. Machines vs. humans. Facebook had pretty much been beaten by Twitter on the real-time activity and real-time search front. Rumor has it that when Twitter turned down a rich offer from Facebook to buy them, Facebook decided to take a better look at Friendfeed.
  • The transaction has been estimated at close to $50 million by the Wall Street Journal. According to the newspaper, “The company paid roughly $15 million in cash, with the rest in Facebook stock that vests over several years and would be worth roughly $32.5 million based on the $6.5 billion common valuation an investor recently placed on the company.”
  • Such an exit for Friendfeed is very good given that their traffic had plateau-ed at 1 million users per month, they didn’t have any revenues and they never managed to become popular outside of the Silicon Valley digerati. They created amazing and innovative technology though.
  • The founders did not sell because they wanted to cash out. They already did that with their Google options (Buchheit was employee #23 at the Mountain View search engine). They must have felt integrating Facebook was the right move at the right time.
  • The Friendfeed team will pretty much become Facebook’s R&D department.

What it means: Smart move by Facebook. Very good move for Friendfeed. Working inside Facebook will give the Friendfeed team more resources to execute on their innovative ideas. It gives Facebook great technology, amazing people and faster execution.

I’ve seen similar moves happen in the Local Media industry in the last few months. For example,

  • Truvo, a directory publisher in 6 European countries, acquired yelloyello, a startup from the Netherlands, in December 2008. Truvo transformed yelloyello into Truvo Labs to leverage social media technologies within the Truvo network.
  • AOL, who recently restructured to put “local” as one of their corporate strategic pillars, bought Patch, a US citizen journalism startup, and Going.com, a US local event portal in June 2009.
  • Herold, the Austrian Yellow Pages owned by European Directories, made a strategic investment in Tupalo, a social Yellow Pages site from Austria, in June 2009.
  • Canpages, a Canadian directory publisher, acquired ZipLocal, a social Yellow Pages destination site in June 2009.

New Year Resolution

Flickr photo by beX out loud

It’s that time of the year when people everywhere reflect on the year that just passed and think about how they can improve their personal and professional life. I’m no different and I’ve used the last few days to think about that. I’ll pass on sharing the personal stuff but I wanted to discuss the one business resolution I’d like to stick to in 2009:

More blogging, less “tweeting”!

In the last three months, I’ve been quite busy as a startup entrepreneur but I’ve also spent an enormous amount of time on Twitter. More than 1500 updates in the last 5 months, about 10 a day, every day! As a consequence, my blogging schedule has fallen from 5 posts a week on average to 2 or 3. I’m not happy about that as I believe blogging defines who you are and what you do in a much more concrete way than conversation tools like Twitter, Facebook or Friendfeed. According to Techcrunch, even famous blogger Robert Scoble has started questioning the value of the time he spends on Friendfeed. He wondered out loud if it”was such a smart investment of my time.” As Loic Le Meur said last March in a brilliant post, “My social map is totally decentralized but I want it back on my blog”

I started blogging in September 2006 and it has propelled my career to new heights. It has allowed me to share my thoughts with thousands of people, I’ve been invited to speak at conferences and I’ve given countless media interviews on a variety of local search and social media topics, all because of my blog.

Your blog is your home base. It should be the foundation upon which you build your online presence and your personal brand. Twitter is the devil. It tempts you to use it to share quick thoughts. It’s the easy (lazy?) way. You don’t have to sit down in front of your computer to think about your next blog post (it takes me between 30 and 60 minutes to write one), you just spew out bite-sized lines. It does not mean you should abandon Twitter (or Friendfeed). They’re great conversation vehicles but you end up with very ephemeral results. You don’t leave much behind. Twitter is an information stream, your blog is your personal mindspace. Make sure you use them both, but use them the right way.

New Year Resolution

Flickr photo by beX out loud

It’s that time of the year when people everywhere reflect on the year that just passed and think about how they can improve their personal and professional life. I’m no different and I’ve used the last few days to think about that. I’ll pass on sharing the personal stuff but I wanted to discuss the one business resolution I’d like to stick to in 2009:

More blogging, less “tweeting”!

In the last three months, I’ve been quite busy as a startup entrepreneur but I’ve also spent an enormous amount of time on Twitter. More than 1500 updates in the last 5 months, about 10 a day, every day! As a consequence, my blogging schedule has fallen from 5 posts a week on average to 2 or 3. I’m not happy about that as I believe blogging defines who you are and what you do in a much more concrete way than conversation tools like Twitter, Facebook or Friendfeed. According to Techcrunch, even famous blogger Robert Scoble has started questioning the value of the time he spends on Friendfeed. He wondered out loud if it”was such a smart investment of my time.” As Loic Le Meur said last March in a brilliant post, “My social map is totally decentralized but I want it back on my blog”

I started blogging in September 2006 and it has propelled my career to new heights. It has allowed me to share my thoughts with thousands of people, I’ve been invited to speak at conferences and I’ve given countless media interviews on a variety of local search and social media topics, all because of my blog.

Your blog is your home base. It should be the foundation upon which you build your online presence and your personal brand. Twitter is the devil. It tempts you to use it to share quick thoughts. It’s the easy (lazy?) way. You don’t have to sit down in front of your computer to think about your next blog post (it takes me between 30 and 60 minutes to write one), you just spew out bite-sized lines. It does not mean you should abandon Twitter (or Friendfeed). They’re great conversation vehicles but you end up with very ephemeral results. You don’t leave much behind. Twitter is an information stream, your blog is your personal mindspace. Make sure you use them both, but use them the right way.

New Year Resolution

Flickr photo by beX out loud

It’s that time of the year when people everywhere reflect on the year that just passed and think about how they can improve their personal and professional life. I’m no different and I’ve used the last few days to think about that. I’ll pass on sharing the personal stuff but I wanted to discuss the one business resolution I’d like to stick to in 2009:

More blogging, less “tweeting”!

In the last three months, I’ve been quite busy as a startup entrepreneur but I’ve also spent an enormous amount of time on Twitter. More than 1500 updates in the last 5 months, about 10 a day, every day! As a consequence, my blogging schedule has fallen from 5 posts a week on average to 2 or 3. I’m not happy about that as I believe blogging defines who you are and what you do in a much more concrete way than conversation tools like Twitter, Facebook or Friendfeed. According to Techcrunch, even famous blogger Robert Scoble has started questioning the value of the time he spends on Friendfeed. He wondered out loud if it”was such a smart investment of my time.” As Loic Le Meur said last March in a brilliant post, “My social map is totally decentralized but I want it back on my blog”

I started blogging in September 2006 and it has propelled my career to new heights. It has allowed me to share my thoughts with thousands of people, I’ve been invited to speak at conferences and I’ve given countless media interviews on a variety of local search and social media topics, all because of my blog.

Your blog is your home base. It should be the foundation upon which you build your online presence and your personal brand. Twitter is the devil. It tempts you to use it to share quick thoughts. It’s the easy (lazy?) way. You don’t have to sit down in front of your computer to think about your next blog post (it takes me between 30 and 60 minutes to write one), you just spew out bite-sized lines. It does not mean you should abandon Twitter (or Friendfeed). They’re great conversation vehicles but you end up with very ephemeral results. You don’t leave much behind. Twitter is an information stream, your blog is your personal mindspace. Make sure you use them both, but use them the right way.

SP32-20080904-131153 

This morning, the fine folks at Mashable wonder “What is FriendFeed’s Effect on Blogging?” Friendfeed, for everyone’s benefit, can be described as a lifestream activity aggregating site.  You basically centralize in one place all of your social media feeds from a variety of services (such as your blog, tweets, YouTube postings, etc.).  You can find mine here.  You also add “friends” and watch the aggregate of all their activities in one place, on the home page of Friendfeed (when you’re signed in).

One of their killer features (which was quickly replicated by Facebook) is the ability to comment on any feed.  Spontaneous conversations can erupt around a variety of topics. The Silicon Valley in-crowd quickly adopted Friendfeed and it seems like many interesting conversations are happening there now . The Friendfeed commenting feature could be equated to what you do in Twitter or in the Facebook status update. In my case, I haven’t adopted Friendfeed as most of social graph doesn’t really hang out there. 

About Friendfeed’s impact on blogging, Mashable says: “I see most of the folks who’ve taken up Twitter, FriendFeed, and other similar services drasticly decrease posting volume, but not to the expense of their substantive editorial or news based posts, it seems. A lot of the personal updates, questions to incite discussion and the observational posts shorten themselves and end up on the lifestream. (…)  In short, micro-blogging isn’t killing traditional blogging, it’s evolving it.”

What it means: I agree.  Blogging is slowly evolving towards a more fragmented world as we see the emergence of new social conversational tools allowing more and more people to start/join conversations in many different places.  More fragmentation means a more complex ecosystem, but also more opportunities for word of mouth. For me, this is still the tip of the iceberg on our way to a completely social Web.

Man Versus Machine

June 3, 2008

On Saturday, I realized that my old wireless router had died of old age. Not knowing what model to buy next (I had bought the first one because it was the only one compatible with my old iPAQ Music Center), I turned to my social graph for an answer. I used Twitter to ask my 375 “followers”: “just realized my wireless router at home died. Any advice as to purchase of a new one?”

In a matter of a few hours, I quickly received many valid answers both from Twitter and from Facebook where my “tweets” are broadcasted to my 612 “friends”:

  • A Montreal web entrepreneur told me to buy the Linksys WRT160N with a link to the product page
  • The partner at the VC firm who funded Praized Media said I should buy an Airport Extreme if I’m using a Mac
  • A former Ubisoft colleague told me to make sure I update the firmware before declaring my router dead
  • Another former Ubisoft colleague suggested a SonicWall router along with a link
  • A high school friend told me to buy Linksys and said I shouldn’t pay more than $80.00

Now, I could have easily queried Google for such a search. I could have looked for “how to buy a wireless router“, found relevant web sites like About.com or eHow, and identify important product criteria that way (and associated brand/models). But you know what? Research takes time. Pinging my social graph took me 1 minute and I got five valid answers in a very short time.

It got me thinking about how the social graph is structured, in terms of ease of access. It’s very easy to access friends & family. You usually have their e-mail address and phone numbers handy. It’s a bit harder to reach the people that have a shared interest with you (community members, neighbors, former colleagues, etc.) and it’s usually very difficult to directly ask experts for their opinion (have you tried pinging a movie critic lately?). What if you could easily reach all these people to ask them anything? And what if everyone had tools to make it easy to answer?

social graph word of mouth

It also got me thinking about the whole Man vs. Machine debate. Who do you trust most for information/recommendations? Man (a real human being answering your query) or Machine (an algorithm that’s surfacing relevant information)? It’s Facebook/Twitter/Friendfeed/Mahalo vs. Google/Yahoo/MSN. Coming from the business directory industry where word-of-mouth is often considered the biggest “competitor” (with social media, it’s becoming the biggest opportunity!), I tend to find human recommendations more relevant and more interesting.

In an article about social media monetization yesterday, eMarketer says that word-of-mouth might be a key way to monetize social media as “62% of marketing professionals told TNS Media Intelligence and Cymfony that creating word-of-mouth or viral campaigns has great potential to impact their business.”

That Man/Machine debate is age-old as you can see from this quote from a 1968 Time magazine article: “With the Depression, the machines that had once seemed so heroic to the prosperous ’20s were suddenly transformed into villains. As production lines slowed to a crawl and millions were thrown out of work, surrealists depicted nightmarish phantom treadmills and airplanes that were trapped like dragonflies.”

As we get closer to the singularity (defined as “a hypothesised point in the future variously characterized by the technological creation of self-improving intelligence, unprecedentedly rapid technological progress, or some combination of the two.”), I think we’ll get into more debates around the value of Man versus Machine (or maybe I’ve been watching too much Battlestar Galactica).

Update: Danny Sullivan talks about “Search 4.0: putting humans back in search“.

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