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The space between Twitter and FriendFeed Permanent link to this item in the archive.

I'm a longtime Twitter user, and as you may know a very regular user of FriendFeed. Each has its strengths but if I had to choose, sort of like Sophie's Choice, I'd have to go with FriendFeed. I finally figured out why this is a few days ago as I was experimenting with a real-time photo-flow app. It could be done in either Twitter or FriendFeed, but in FF it's graphic and in color, in Twitter, it's like a command-line operating system. Then it hit me, Twitter is to FriendFeed (in 2008) what MS-DOS was to the Mac (in 1984). Have we come full circle? Amazingly I think we have.

In the 80s, MS-DOS users argued whether or not we needed a graphic operating system. "Need" was the big idea. They said they could do everything you could do with a Mac on the PC, and they were more than right about that -- they could do more on the PC than you could do on a Mac because there was more software for it. In 1984 the Mac had a lousy spreadsheet and a cheap word processor, and whole categories completely missing like databases. This is analogous to the correct argument that Twitter has more people to connect with, and of course that's the whole point of both products -- connecting with people. Twitter wins that one, hands-down, nolo contendere. And FriendFeed, even in its name, admits that this is the game, after all it's called FriendFeed, not CoolFeaturesFeed, although of course, that's why I like it. ;->

A picture named tribesman.jpgBut it's undeniable, when a picture shows up in FriendFeed it looks like a picture, not like a url. And when a YouTube video appears, yup -- it looks like a video not a url. MS-DOS users sniffed at WYSIWYG back then, as Twitter users today sniff at a visual twitstream, but the MS-DOS users were wrong, history proved that, and I think the Twitter users are wrong too.

I've been calling this The Graphics Gap, with a hat-tip to Dr. Strangelove, a satire of the nuclear arms race of the 60s and 70s, when the Russians and Americans worried about a missile gap, space gap, doomsday gap, and eventually (according to the satire) a mineshaft gap.

Now, on the other hand...

Yesterday I went into the city for a chat with tech industry guru Om Malik. Of course the conversation turned to Twitter and FriendFeed -- Om said something I hear a lot. When he goes to FriendFeed he doesn't know what to make of it. I totally understand, there are still parts of FriendFeed that I, a devoted user, have never explored. It took me months to realize that "Like" was the feature I kept asking for. It's hard to find things I post there, even something I posted yesterday. An item I posted two months ago all of a sudden pops to the surface because someone commented on it or Liked it. Unless you're very curious, or devoted to understanding this category, as I am, FF often remains a puzzle, where -- as Om noted -- Twitter is so simple anyone can understand it in a few minutes.

Hence the premise of this piece. I believe that there is space between Twitter and FriendFeed for a service that's dumber than FriendFeed and richer than Twitter. Start with what Twitter does and add the graphics that FriendFeed has. I know some people will say that's Pownce, but it's not (though Pownce was pretty nice). I don't want full blog posts, I like the 140-character limit, and I can skip out on the discussion features that FF has that Twitter doesn't. But I think a graphic and visual Twitter would kick ass, the same way the Macintosh eventually kicked MS-DOS's ass in the 80s and early 90s.


Last update: Sunday, December 07, 2008 at 8:37 PM Pacific.

A picture named dave.jpgDave Winer, 53, pioneered the development of weblogs, syndication (RSS), podcasting, outlining, and web content management software; former contributing editor at Wired Magazine, research fellow at Harvard Law School, entrepreneur, and investor in web media companies. A native New Yorker, he received a Master's in Computer Science from the University of Wisconsin, a Bachelor's in Mathematics from Tulane University and currently lives in Berkeley, California.

"The protoblogger." - NY Times.

"The father of modern-day content distribution." - PC World.

One of BusinessWeek's 25 Most Influential People on the Web.

"Helped popularize blogging, podcasting and RSS." - Time.

"The father of blogging and RSS." - BBC.

"RSS was born in 1997 out of the confluence of Dave Winer's 'Really Simple Syndication' technology, used to push out blog updates, and Netscape's 'Rich Site Summary', which allowed users to create custom Netscape home pages with regularly updated data flows." - Tim O'Reilly.

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