Why Streamy Could be the Next FriendFeed

In wake of the news of the FriendFeed acquisition by Facebook, we’re faced with the real possibility that FriendFeed.com will be shut down for good. According to the press release, “FriendFeed.com will continue to operate normally for the time being…” In other words, it’s only a matter of time before the site is gone for good. What is the FriendFeed community to do?

At one time, FriendFeed clones like Lifestream.fm and Socialthing! looked like promising alternatives, but neither of them offered the same rich and innovative features that FriendFeed does – the very features which made FriendFeed the standout service that it is today. However, there is one service that may have an opportunity to capitalize on the FriendFeed exodus: social media aggregator Streamy.

Could Streamy be a Contender? Yes!

When we looked at Streamy back in March of this year, we were more than impressed with what it had to offer. For some reason though, the service’s social networking aspects never really became heavily used by the early adopter crowd. Everyone had their own reasons for this decision of course, with complaints which ranged from the service feeling a little too raw for everyday use to its RSS reader which couldn’t (and still doesn’t) provide a viable alternative to Google Reader. However, we think the main reason for the lack of uptake has more to do with the fact that Streamy’s core audience was already busy interacting, commenting, and “liking” items over on their social media aggregator of choice: FriendFeed.

Now, with FriendFeed out of the way (or soon to be, that is), it may be time for us to give Streamy another look. There are a number of features which should appeal to today’s FriendFeed users if they decide to make the switch. However, there are still some issues with how Streamy implements these features, and we’ll make note of those too.

1. FriendFeed Friend Import

When you sign up for Streamy, you have the option to find your friends on other services. One of those services is FriendFeed. By clicking on the “People” link at the top of the page then selecting “Find Friends” you can import your friends from Facebook, Twitter, FriendFeed, Google, and even Flickr. This is at least as good as FriendFeed’s own friend import process which only imported from email, Twitter, and Facebook. Plus, it gives you the ability to easily re-create your FriendFeed social graph on Streamy without having to manually seek out your friends and re-add them.

What Streamy needs to work on: One thing Streamy needs to improve in this area is the ability to “select all” the friends it finds and let you follow them in one fell swoop. At the moment, you have to click “Follow” next to each individual who you want to add. It’s also really hard to see who’s following you and then reciprocate. Although new followers appear on the homepage in the “new from friends” section, you have to “remove” each person from this box after following them only to have more new followers appear in their place. And there’s no way to tell whether or not you were already following these people, which leads to confusion. There should be a centralized way of managing this activity and the homepage widget definitely needs to sync with your following choices made on the backend.

2. Comment on Stories

On the Streamy homepage, a section called “Stories for You” delivers personalized news based on your site activity like stories you and your friends are sharing and commenting on. However, since at first Streamy has no activity to go on, it simply recommends “popular” stories to you and those may not be stories you actually enjoy. Like FriendFeed, you can comment on these stories and those comments will be seen by others reading the same story. Also like FriendFeed, undesirable stories can be hidden from your view with the “hide” button. However, unlike FriendFeed, Streamy actually introduces a great feature here: threaded comments. Each comment has a “reply” button next to it, letting users reply to each other’s comments as opposed to simply creating a new one.

What Streamy needs to work on: Although FriendFeed’s river of news was also personalized based on who you followed, the site offered a number of ways to surface popular content. When your friends commented on an item, it “bubbled up” to appear at the top of your stream, for instance. FriendFeed also had a “best of day” feature which displayed the most active stories that day. Streamy doesn’t have anything like this so content with comments could easily become lost. For now, the best way to see stories your friends comment on is in the “New from People” homepage widget (also available in the “People” section) which is an activity feed of your friends’ comments among other things.

3. Groups: Streamy’s Version of FriendFeed Rooms

Streamy has a feature which lets you create groups which is somewhat reminiscent of FriendFeed’s Rooms feature. As with Rooms, groups can be topic-based so you and your friends can discuss the news. You can browse through your own group memberships to see which groups you’re a member of and you can access the admin features for the groups you own. Also like FriendFeed, groups can be public or private as you choose and you can invite members simply by typing their name.

What Streamy needs to work on: Unlike FriendFeed, groups can’t be auto-populated with content like RSS feeds, Twitter accounts, YouTube videos, etc. Everything needs to be manually entered through a text box or shared with the group via Streamy’s sharing features. However, sharing items from your subscriptions or recommended stories is more difficult than it should be. Despite Streamy’s cool drag-and-drop interface for posting to external services, sharing with groups or individuals still leaves a lot to be desired.

When you first grab an item to share it, icons appear letting you save it (the star icon), share to other services like Facebook or Twitter (green arrow), or share with a friend (people icon). When you select the share with friends option, though, only a limited number of people appear and they’re only identified with their avatar, not by name. Also missing is a way to share with the groups from here.

Instead, to share with a group, you have to click on the story’s headline then access the share button from the top right of the article. Once here, it’s very easy to share with either people, groups, or services. It’s the sort of option that should be available directly from the homepage without any extra clicks.

4. Your Shared Stuff

Another sharing feature in Streamy is the one where you’re able to share items by posting them to your profile. This feature is activated through the drag-and-drop interface and dragging the content to the Streamy service from the available list of services to post to (green arrow icon, once again). This posts the story to your profile which your friends can then see when they click on “Shared Stuff” from their own Streamy homepage. It also appears in the “New from People” homepage feed. In a way, this is a lot like FriendFeed’s home feed which is comprised of all the shared items from your FriendFeed friends.

What Streamy needs to work on: Unlike FriendFeed, your own “Shared Stuff” isn’t populated with the dozens of social media services that FriendFeed supports. Instead, Streamy displays all your site activity, including friends you added and groups you created or joined. Your friends will then see your Streamy status updates, shared stories, and stories you commented on mixed in with these other activities in their “New from People” feed. We’re not sure that we want to see people’s site-wide activity (like who they just friended) – we’re more interested in the actual content they’re sharing.

5. …And So Much More!

What Streamy really has going for it, though, is what FriendFeed didn’t – the dashboard aggregator, integration with other social media services, and built in chat. Streamy’s layout is a lot different from FriendFeed – or from Twitter for that matter – and that may be good thing in some people’s opinion. As opposed to a real-time “river of news” the site’s homepage is a widget-filled dashboard with updates from your feeds, Facebook, and any other services you add. It also includes a friend list showing your IM buddies from Google Chat, AIM, or MSN. The Status update box lets you post to Facebook, Twitter, Streamy, or (for now) FriendFeed. As you delve into the dashboards for the other services using the small buttons at the top, you’ll be surprised to find things like a full-on Twitter client complete with replies, DMs, and trending topics, for example. Digg’s dashboard is a nice, consolidated view of what’s hot on that service… and so on.

If you don’t like the dashboard, you can also choose to have Streamy load up directly to your feeds or one of the other social media services Streamy supports.

What Streamy needs to work on: Adding widgets to the dashboard needs improvement. You have to first click on the widget (+) button from the top of the page to select the additional widgets. While simple enough in theory, there were some bugs when testing this out. For example, adding a Digg widget for the topic “Technology” was a dead-end. After you get the drop-down box to select a topic, there’s no “go” or “add” button to actually complete the process.

Conclusion

In the end, Streamy shows a lot of potential for becoming a great service and they could certainly capitalize on FriendFeed’s impending shutdown if they so desired. However, there’s still a bit of work to be done to make the service as usable as it needs to be for ex-FriendFeed users. In Streamy’s defense, however, they originally never had the goal of competing with FriendFeed which is why things are the way they are. Like us, they never imagined FriendFeed would be acquired and shut down. Now that it has sold, though, the company is interested in seeing how they could appeal to the community of early adopters who originally made FriendFeed their home.

Will Streamy be able to make the necessary changes in time before someone else lures the ex-FriendFeeders over to their service? Perhaps. The company, currently a small 3-person team, has made amazing strides so far and is currently looking into getting additional funding. In the next couple of months, if things go well, we may see a lot of changes happen very quickly – specifically to the social networking aspects of the service. The company also sees a lot of potential to incorporate new features which aren’t simply FriendFeed dupes. Hopefully, we’ll be able to update this post someday soon with details as to what those may be.

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