Today, I came across a site from Red Hat called Mugshot that neither I nor Sarah Perez had ever heard of. Mugshot is an open source lifestream aggregation service that went overlooked in our list of 35 such sites last February (though it was mentioned in a comment left about a week later). Mugshot has clearly flown under the radar — for 2 years! Though it wasn’t always a lifestream aggregator, the Mugshot project was launched 2 years ago. So why has Mugshot stayed small while FriendFeed has blown up?
The answer, it would seem, is that FriendFeed was anointed early on as a darling of new media, while Mugshot — and other lifestreaming services — have struggled to get attention from the early adopter press (read: blogs like this one).
But let’s back up a second. Press attention doesn’t always translate to success. When Yahoo! Photos closed in favor of Flickr last May, Flickr was actually the smaller of the two sites, even though it got the lion’s share of press mentions. We noted recently that MySpace takes 75% of social networking traffic, but according to Technorati they only get about half as many mentions as Facebook on high authority blogs.
On the other hand, for a service like Mugshot that appeals mainly to early adopters, the TechCrunch 53,651 (now more like 950,000) is a vitally important. Technorati says that Mugshot has only been linked to 917 times — only a couple of times by a top-tier blogs, and never in a dedicated post over the past year that we could find. FriendFeed, meanwhile, has been linked to over 14,000 times, and nearly every top-tier blog has written about the service multiple times. Techmeme reports 137 headlines about FriendFeed, for Mugshot: just 3, and all came around the project’s launch two years ago.
The reason blog mentions matter less for sites like Facebook and Flickr are because, let’s face it, social networking or photosharing aren’t as hard to sell to the mainstream as say lifestreaming, so early adopters aren’t necessarily technology geeks (for Facebook it was college students, for Flickr it was photographers). Other factors matter more to driving adoption of sites targeted at the mainstream. For sites that target tech and web early adopters, however, that’s less true, and mentions on blogs like this one become a lot more important to building early inertia.
It would appear that the tech blog echochamber has the potential to work against new services targeted at early adopters. If a new service relies on early adopters, it appears that it will only have a chance if it can get love from early adopter blogs. Even though Mugshot seems like a very capable lifestream aggregator and predated FriendFeed — and it is open source to boot — it has not had much of an impact because FriendFeed has dominated the new media news cycle. The echochamber effect of the tech blogosphere only served to make that news domination more pronounced and make it that much harder for competing services to gain traction.