FriendFeed opened up a new beta today that introduces a completely revamped real-time user interface, as well as a number of interesting new features, including direct messages, the ability to share posts more selectively, better searches and filters, as well as a number of other smaller changes that make the new user interface very different from its predecessor.
FriendFeed has regularly made changes to its UI, but this new design is clearly the biggest change yet.
If you follow a lot of users on FriendFeed, the first impression of the new interface will most likely be negative. The new design emphasizes a real-time stream of all of your activity, in what can probably best be described as a mashup of the old UI with FriendFeed's old real-time stream, but with the addition that complete posts now bubble up to the top, instead of just individual comments and likes.
The new sidebar now includes links to direct messages that have been addressed to you, as well as links to your filters and groups. Most importantly, it also includes a link to a feed with all the posts you actively participated in - which makes the often chaotic feel of the main stream more manageable.
One of the most important features on the new FriendFeed is the addition of direct messages. Unless you choose to publish your messages to the 'main feed,' they will stay private. Direct messages can be addressed to multiple users, which will make them quite useful for impromptu group discussions. Of course, this also makes FriendFeed a bit more like Twitter.
The new advanced filters that FriendFeed has introduced in this release make it a lot easier to create streams that only include updates with (or without) certain keywords, or which have a specific number of likes or comments. These searches can also be restricted to specific groups and friends. For power users, this might just turn into one of the most important new features on FriendFeed.
A few more changes:
- by default, direct posts to FriendFeed are now automatically CC'd to Twitter
- the icons that used to announce where an item was coming from are now gone
- rooms are now 'filters'
- the search function auto-completes names of your friends
- in addition to subscribing to a users' feed, you can now also subscribe to their comments and likes
- date stamps are now permalinks
While the new FriendFeed interface will probably be at least somewhat controversial, we especially wonder if this will help FriendFeed to grow beyond its current base of dedicated users. One complaint about the old FriendFeed interface was that it was overwhelming for new users. We are not sure that the constant stream of updates will make the service any more inviting.
It's Growing On Us
For most hardcore FriendFeed users who have friended a lot of other users, the default real-time stream is almost unmanageable, but the FriendFeed team has smartly added the 'My discussions' section. This section takes some of the craziness out of the main feed - but at the expense of missing out on new discussions.
Our first reaction to the new interface was quite negative - the stream is overwhelming and the new interface does take some getting used to (especially the odd color choices). It might take a few days of continuous usage before we can really give a final verdict, but over the last few hours, the new UI has definitely grown on us, and with a few more keyword searches and lists, we should be able to wrangle a semblance of normalcy out of the chaotic real-time stream.
By the way, if you don't like the colors of the new design, here is a Greasemonkey script from AJ Batac that brings together the colors of the old FriendFeed design and the new real-time UI.
Also, here are a few more interesting reactions to the new design:
Louis Gray: FriendFeed Reloads With Real-Time At Its Core
Hutch Carpenter: Taking Realtime Aim at Facebook