Home FriendFeed Opens the Floodgates with Real-Time Updates

FriendFeed Opens the Floodgates with Real-Time Updates

Using FriendFeed to track all of your friends’ activities has become a daily routine for many of us. But, apparently, pressing the refresh button to get the latest and greatest information has been a bit arduous for some.

Can’t FriendFeed find a way to save their information-addled users by providing real-time updates without hitting refresh every five seconds? Yes, they can. And it turns out that, not only is this new feature good for you, it’s good for FriendFeed, too.

FriendFeed has already been leading the charge to accelerate how RSS-consuming services get their data from sources more efficiently with its Simple Update Protocol. Now, they’re turning their attention to how the users get information more quickly.

But what does FriendFeed’s technological experimentation mean to you? Real-time FriendFeed updates. Without having to hit refresh.

Here’s an example of the updates in action:

For Twitter politicos, the feature will seem very familiar, as it acts a great deal like Twitter’s Election 2008 stream.

And I have to admit, it’s a whole new way to consume FriendFeed. It’s not only fast, it’s addictive. But don’t take my word for it. Head on over to the 2008 Debates room and see it in action for yourself. (It should get even more interesting once the debates are broadcast in the US, tonight.)

How does FriendFeed accomplish this addictive feature? They’re experimenting with a technique called “long polling.” In FriendFeed’s words that means that their server “doesn’t respond to your browser’s request until there’s something it wants to send.”

There’s an upside for the users and an upside for FriendFeed, as well, since they can now “show your FriendFeed faster using far fewer requests than before.”

And fewer requests are good for everyone.

While the feature is only in testing, it’s clear to see how this type of long polling could be applied to other services – and to our information consumption on the Web. For a medium that has long been about active engagement, technology is rapidly pushing it into something more passively consumed. Watching – and I literally mean “watching” – the impact of that change occur will be interesting indeed.

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