Poynter Online news editor Steve Myers pointed to a Big Money article that smartly and — despite broad strokes — for the most part correctly evaluates the potential value of Facebook’s purchase of FriendFeed.
I’m going to guess you’re intimately familiar with Facebook. FriendFeed, on the other hand, is an aggregation/interaction site that allows users to easily import RSS feeds, collect them in one place, present them anywhere, and comment and vote on posts in others’ feeds.
While Facebook has these features too, the FriendFeed interface makes it very simple to drop in all your social network accounts. And hey, who doesn’t like easy, right?
In the article, “Now Facebook Really Owns You,” Chadwick Matlin writes:
…[I]magine a social aggregator with the size and sway of Facebook. Users would love it because it would make their lives simpler and more streamlined. The other social media sites stand to gain as well, since Facebook would be pointing more users to content offsite. News sites will get more traffic because people will be clicking through on more links. Facebook, of course, would be the biggest victor: It would be able to get people to check in more often and stay longer. Ad rates can then go up, which helps the company’s bottom line.
He doesn’t explicitly mention one thing: user data. Facebook has a lot of information about you, your friends and your acquaintances: birthdays, addresses, phone numbers, relationships, things you like, games you play, who you pay attention to and who pays attention to you, and — if you didn’t delete your cookies before logging in — other sites you’ve visited.
This is valuable not just to Facebook, but to third-party developers and those who use FacebookConnect. It means companies can get a more accurate picture of who you are and who the people you’re connected to are, in other words, more accurate user targeting.
Businesses are interested in making sure you take a specific action. The more they know about you, your behaviors, and what influences you, the better they can tailor their message to get you to do something.
Yes, Facebook got some very sharp engineers, and yes, real-time search will probably make Facebook a bigger player amongst those who need to know what people are saying now, but for profitability, the game has always been about understanding the user through data. In my opinion, the technologies FriendFeed was built on will allow Facebook to fill in gaps.