I was asked a couple of times last week what I thought about Facebook's recent announcement of an impending Friendfeed acquisition. It was a busy week and I really hadn't had much time to think of anything but the various elements of my impending book launch.
But last night, I had a few friends over including Shirley and Jeremiah Owyang and I asked Jeremiah hs views. he made a couple of really good points. First, he said it was a talent acquisition. Almost anyone who understands and appreciates Web 2.0 technology speaks with great respect for the elegance, simplicity and power of Friendfeed. It's the reason why the platform has become the conversational tool of choice among so many members of the technology community.
Second, Jeremiah sees a smart defensive move. He observed that Facebook didn't want another out-of-nowhere success story such as Twitter to deal with, and once again I completely agree with him.
I don't know any of the strategists over at Facebook, so I speak with no inside knowledge, but I think there may be another, bigger picture strategy going on and it has to do with where conversational technology is going over the next five or maybe 10 years.
This is a disruptive space, one driven by different fundamentals than we have seen in modern times. To date it has been driven, not by what the investor wants, not by what the entrepreneur wants but by what the users want.
For better or worse, social media is a customer-driven marketplace. This causes all sorts of headaches. Free for one thing, is a migraine in a free marketplace, but free has become the standard, perhaps since Google determined to make scores of millions of people happy, dependent customers before it made it's first penny.
Something else customers want--if not demand is to be able to post content in one place and have it distributed across the social web. In short, I want the tweet I post once to appears on Facebook, Friendfeed and so on. Right now, when I post on Friendfeed, I've checked a box that means what I post automatically goes up Twitter. When I post a tweet, it gets posted on Facebook. If I opted to use Tweetdeck, I can simultaneously post on Facebook and Twitter. Google is obviously interested in the space as well and I assume so are some people somewhere at Microsoft, and maybe Apple Computer.
The purchase of Friendfeed puts Facebook into a leadership position in the emerging race of "one post gets you everywhere. The acquisition of the Friendfeed talent pool makes it likely that lead will expand.
Then finally, there is another longterm factor, one that any MBA can explain to you. We seem to becoming to the end of a very exciting innovation era. Innovation and disruption is usually spurred by startups such as Twitter, Friendfeed and Facebook.
Such phase are then followed by longer, slower moving, less-dramatic phases of refinement; of putting systems in place, of establishing best practices. These periods are invariably a time of great business consolidation. Agile little startups become pieces of much larger companies. There's less excitement and more profit.
I think the acquisition of Friendfeed is smart, strategic. It is also the logical next step on the continuum of what I call the normalization of social media.