The internet is really exciting. There's a whole lot of information on it - an overwhelming amount, even. Years ago we first looked at it in monochrome text, then we started looking at it through a search box on an empty white page. What's next? Is it huge War Games style multi-monitor displays? A swirling UI somewhere between Tom Cruise in Minority Report and David Bowie in Labrynth?
Today we're ready to declare The Newsfeed the dominant internet metaphor of the day; the cascading waterfall of updates from your friends, with comments swirling even around those - that model is everywhere now!
Today one of the biggest photo sharing websites and the biggest news and email portal in the world both fell under the spell of the Newsfeed.
The new Flickr home page is dominated by a beautiful example of a news feed. The "recent activity" drop-down shows you all the comments, favorites and new friendships in your photo sharing network. You can remove certain types of updates from your news feed or you can switch over to a full page view that looks even better.
The recent activity section is joined on your home page by recent photos from friends and a rotating oversized photo from the Explore section of the site. The whole effect is really quite nice.
Yahoo launched a new feature today called Yahoo Profiles. It's a really simple way to have a profile page online, something that millions of people still don't have, and to watch a news feed of your contacts' activities! It does almost nothing else, in fact! There's no bulk contact import, invite or discovery - much less a secure standards based one. There's no microformat markup of your interests on your profile. It's pretty unimpressive, but it's a news feed and millions of people are liable to engage socially online using it.
Newsfeed, Newsfeed, Newsfeed
XML syndication is incredibly powerful technology, but everyone agreed that it would make a much bigger impact "under the covers" of something more user-friendly. In effect, that's what's happening with news feeds. When Facebook released its newsfeed 2 years ago this Fall there was a huge uprising against it. People said that it made it too easy for other people to see what you were doing! It was reminiscent of early bicycle-haters condemning the sexual freedom that the first two-wheelers brought to young women.
There's no putting the Newsfeed back in the bottle, though. Kids these days want their friends' status updates and they want them now. Every single major social network quickly began offering a Newsfeed after Facebook's made the value of the feature self-evident. MySpace has newsfeeds, LinkedIn has newsfeeds, everyone has newsfeeds. Yesterday we covered FriendFeed's new "real time" view, a newsfeed lover's newsfeed. Last month we wrote about the Associated Press selling software to newspapers that lets them view the wire as an online newsfeed and then publish out to newspaper websites structured very similar to newsfeeds themselves.
Newsfeeds are everywhere, they are an arguably efficient and pleasing (for some) way to relate to an unending supply of information. Some people find them overwhelming, others say they are a waste of mental energy and surely some will insist they are bad for the human brain's ability to remember anything from one day to the next.
None the less, for now we love them. If you'd like to join us in the big newsfeed in the sky, a good place to start is FriendFeed. You can take a tour of all the RWW staff's feeds here. Friend us up and we'll explore this new paradigm together.