Social Media and Web Ecosystems

By Mielle Sullivan, Janus Networks

It may seem too obvious to mention that the strength and utility of the internet come from its ability to access and share information from a nearly infinite number of sources.
Yet this is a truth we are continually relearning about the internet through the successes and foibles of notable internet companies. The latest iteration of this lesson comes from the big players of social media.

Consider Facebook’s recent acquisition of Friendfeed. Until that acquisition, Facebook’s strategy was the much discussed walled-garden: control the user experience and keep them on the site. Such an approach is great for the statistics advertisers love like “time-on-site” but is, in actuality, counter to the natural flow of the internet.

Facebook’s status updates became a central part of the site during the rise of Twitter. The updates are easy, fun and useful way for Facebook users to keep track of what their friends are doing. But Friendfeed has a wider scope, allowing users to easily share a myriad of online activities including: favored websites from Digg and StumbleUpon, favored videos on YouTube, Amazon wish lists, music artists they found on Pandora…the list goes on. Friendeed acts as an online activity aggregator, rather than a walled garden and thus offers a richer user experience.

Facebook will use the acquisition to enter the aggregation business as well, which means the walled garden just became an ecosystem. Friendfeed would be a boring site if the sites it feeds from, like twitter and Pandora, weren’t interesting and thriving as well. Friendfeed does not directly compete with these services, it is merely a broadcast tool–taking data and sending traffic back to these sites. Facebook now also depends on the success of these other sites.

Some bloggers have argued that if twitter posts are widely fed to Facebook updates it could eventually erode Twitter’s audience, but I think there is plenty of room for multiple services depending on what a user wants to do or where they are on the web at any given moment. Many users will want to use both. On the social web, multiplicity of sources creates value, much like the wider world of the web.

You can contact the author at press@janusnetworks.com

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