Facebook To Acquire FriendFeed

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Facebook aims to plug its real-time content gap by buying FriendFeed, a social network aggregator that lets users create custom feeds of content from Facebook, Digg, YouTube and other services

After failing to buy microblogging site Twitter, Facebook has said it will acquire FriendFeed, which lets users aggregate content from more than 60 social Websites and build customised content feeds for sharing with friends.

Importantly, these feeds surface posts and comments in users’ home feeds, friend lists and rooms in real time, satisfying users’ thirst for the freshest Web content.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, but FriendFeed’s 12 employees will join Facebook in senior roles on Facebook’s engineering and product teams. This includes FriendFeed co-founders Bret Taylor, Paul Buchheit, Jim Norris and Sanjeev Singh, all of whom left plum roles at Google to create the FriendFeed service in October 2007.

Patterned after Facebook’s news feed feature, FriendFeed lets users pull content from Facebook, Digg, Twitter YouTube and other social sites and customize feeds that include their friends’ photos, videos, links and messages. Users can then share these feeds with their friends. FriendFeed also lets users embed their social feeds into their home page or blog, or publish the feed on Twitter, Facebook or iGoogle.

In July, FriendFeed aimed to challenge Twitter and other startups by adding real-time search, helping users find the latest content published on the Web. Facebook (and Google) tried to acquire Twitter in fall 2008, but both failed, leaving some to wonder how the companies would address their gaps in real-time search.

FriendFeed, which will continue to operate normally while the teams determine the longer-term plans for the product, is the answer to that question for Facebook.

Gartner analyst Ray Valdes told eWEEK acquiring FriendFeed was Facebook’s consolation prize after failing to buy Twitter, which he said has lofty ambitions of its own: collecting 1 billion users and serving as a major marketing tool for businesses.

“FriendFeed is a good second choice in terms of acquiring the fresh face,” Valdes said. “It makes sense from a strategic viewpoint, but I think they will have technology challenges and user experience design challenges.”

Valdes said FriendFeed has lots of social networking knobs and dials that will have to be rationalized into Facebook, which has its own granular social controls. “It’s like Twitter, only with more controls and channels of information.”

FriendFeed’s Taylor said he sees the move as a great opportunity for the FriendFeed service to scale.

“Now we have the opportunity to bring many of the innovations we’ve developed at FriendFeed to Facebook’s 250 million users around the world and to work alongside Facebook’s passionate engineers to create even more ways for you to easily share with your friends online,” Taylor wrote in a blog post.

“Since I first tried FriendFeed, I’ve admired their team for creating such a simple and elegant service for people to share information,” Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a statement. “As this shows, our culture continues to make Facebook a place where the best engineers come to build things quickly that lots of people will use.”

Facebook is also quickly becoming the place where former Google employees go to apply their programming and business talent. Buchheit created Gmail, which has tens of millions of users. Taylor and Norris worked on Google Maps. Singh worked on Gmail and Google’s Search Appliance.

Sheryl Sandberg, Elliot Schrage, Gideon Yu, Ethan Beard and several other Google executives and programmers joined Facebook in 2008, helping the social site boom to more than 250 million users worldwide.