Why FriendFeed (or Its Successor) Could Be the Next Google

Steve Rubel on Digital Communications

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Hi. My name is Steve, and I suffer from Shiny Object Syndrome, or SOS for short. SOS describes the digerati's never-ending obsession with emerging social sites. First came blogs. Then there was podcasting, YouTube, Facebook, MySpace, Second Life and finally Twitter. Some stuck. Others didn't. The key to addressing SOS is to take a step back and look at the potential business models.

My latest fascination is FriendFeed, a site that in one place aggregates your friends' streams from across different social sites. Right now FriendFeed's audience is paltry. According to Compete, it has 300,000 active users. Still, I believe that FriendFeed has the potential to become as big as Google. Others who are vying for the same crown include SocialThing, Facebook and Google itself.

Steve Rubel
Photo: JC Bourcart
Steve Rubel is a marketing strategist and blogger. He is senior VP in Edelman's Me2Revolution practice.
Why am I so bullish about such a small site? Simple. There are three mega trends at work here.

First, there's the rising influence of peers. Some 58% of opinion elites 35 to 64 said they trust a "person like me," according to the Edelman Trust Barometer.

Second, there's search. Some 90% of the online population searches, according to the Pew Internet for the American Life Project.

Finally, there's the giant pool of Millennials. They have no problem living their lives online and are predisposed to creating and consuming content created by peers.

Combine these three trends, and you can easily search content created by people you trust. That's huge and monetizable. That's where I see FriendFeed, Facebook and perhaps Google heading. They will all build businesses around social contextual search advertising.

Social contextual search addresses Google's Achilles' heel: superfluous content. When users scour the web, they can't easily separate content they trust (i.e., content that has been created by their friends) from everything else. It all gets piled into pages of indiscernible blue links that all compete for attention.

However, if you can just search what your friends think and prioritize it over everything else, you have a very powerful recommendation engine.

As an early FriendFeed enthusiast, I find myself increasingly turning to its terrific search engine when I need product and service information. You can give this a try yourself at friendfeed.com/search/advanced. However, it works best when you have added a bunch of people whose opinions you trust. Advertisers will soon be tripping over themselves to make sure their ads show up at the precise moment when such searches are executed.

I believe that FriendFeed will be the first to implement an elegant advertising system that complements aggregated content from friends. The company's founders are ex-Googlers who know how to build simple systems that scale and have excellent search and monetization capabilities. Watch for Facebook and Google to follow suit and a race to take off in this area.
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