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FriendFeed interview transcript

Entrepreneur interview by Carl Brown
March 31, 2008 last edited July 10, 2008
Short URL: http://vator.tv/n/1b0

Bambi Francisco: I am Bambi Francisco for Vator TV, the network for innovators. When Facebook launched its new feed in 2006, it was one of the most brilliant strategic moves to get its users engaged. Now a new site called FriendFeed is taking that concept, but applying it across the web and joining me to talk about FriendFeed is Paul Buchheit who is one of the early architects of Google’s Gmail. He is also one of the founders and investors in FriendFeed and I also should disclose that Paul is also an investor in Vator TV. Paul thanks for joining us.

Paul Buchheit: Thanks.

Bambi Francisco: We were talking earlier about FriendFeed and it’s similarities with Facebook, in that you can actually see what your friends are doing, not necessarily on Facebook but across the web with FriendFeed, but talk about the differences and how your services compared to the news feed, Facebooks news feed.

Paul Buchheit: So at a very high level there are a lot of similarities but the real difference in experience which is at the Facebook news feed is much more about your friends activities, so if someone broke up with their girlfriend or if someone got super popped or whatever, whatever the activity is that’s going on in Facebook, FriendFeed is much more about content. So, if a friend of your has found an interesting article in the New York Times or maybe they uploaded some pictures to Flickr or they saw a funny cat video on You Tube and they just want to share it with their friends, we make it very easy to do that and then also we make it very easy just to have a little discussion surrounding that content, but with your friends, which is actually one of the very unique aspects of FriendFeed. There are a lot of places on the web where you can have comments and discussions but they are typically with just kind of random people who happen to be on the site, FriendFeed is, it’s with your friends.

Bambi Francisco: Right, right, right.

Paul Buchheit: So you have discussions with your friends and that’s actually a very fun social experience.

Bambi Francisco: Right. I mean there are a number of ways you can share things with your friends today or bookmark things and friends and that’s sort of another sharing component but talk about some of the services out there like Digg or Reddit or Twitter, they all allow you to share your experiences or comments but how is yours different from theirs? How is it better?

Paul Buchheit: Right, right. Those are great services but again they have a sort of a different flavor in that. When you share something on Reddit, you are really sharing it with the whole world or if you Digg something or if you post a comment on Digg, your posting a comment along with a million other people who you probably don’t know and so what makes FriendFeed kind of unique is we integrate with all of those sites and so if you do Digg something on Digg or you like something on Reddit, we can automatically pull that into your FriendFeed if you’ve continued to do that and then your friends see it and you can have a little discussion just with your friends and so even if something maybe isn’t very popular with the world of Digg users that might be something that your friends find really interesting and the discussion you have with your friends will be very interesting because of people you know, people you have some history with and you know there is a little inside joke and you go off topic, it doesn’t matter, it’s just kind of a fun thing because it isn’t the whole world and it isn’t out there for everyone to discuss.

Bambi Francisco: Now are you creating, it seems to me you have 23 services, I have been on the site. I have actually contributed to the site as well and now I have, I subscribe two other friends on what you call FriendFeeds I guess and it’s so easy and easy to use which is great, you built a nice product, but it seems like you are almost creating this social network on top the other networks. Are you trying to create the social network on top of all of the different services in Social Networks?

Paul Buchheit: Well what we see is that it’s not really about social networking in the sense that most of these other social networks are you know, FriendFeed is more based around just if I’m interested in subscribing to one of my friends. So it isn’t about trying to list out who all of my friends are and so for example I just have some friend who, all they have to do is, is share some crazy videos that I really like. I can just unsubscribe from them or hide their videos or whatever it is and it isn’t a big deal because I’m not saying this person is or isn’t my friend, its just a matter of saying this is interesting content to me from my friends.

Bambi Francisco: Now it’s interesting that you, when I signed up you, it just seems like it’s very easy to invite your friends and one of the tricks to being a great successful web 2.0 company is really to implement and develop tools that will really make your product viral. So I guess as you though about building this how you know, because we thought about how to make this very viral and allow for quick adoption what did you build into your system?

Paul Buchheit: Well one of the biggest things is that as you mentioned we just try to make it really easy to use, really easy to get started. You don’t really have to do much to get started using FriendFeed and one of the things, you know I mention You Tube or Flickr we try to adapt to whatever it is you are already doing on the web and so we are not trying to change your behavior. You can keep using Digg, you can keep using Flickr whatever and we just can automatically import that activity and likewise you don’t have to visit the FriendFeed website, we, you can install, we have a iGoogle gadget that goes on your personalized Google home page and the Facebook applications that goes into Facebook, we can send you E-mail summaries and so what we try to do is, is really view all of the places you already are and also import data from all of the things you are already using, so that its very easy to get started and there isn’t really a big commitment from the user.

Bambi Francisco: How do you get, for instance from me, I mean its easy for me, I’m sort of an early adopter, sort of early adopter but how do I get my friends, what’s the incentive for me to get my friends using FriendFeed, because I want to share with them right but they are busy doing you know on other services and sometimes it’s a really pain to get people to adopt the things your using.

Paul Buchheit: Well, I mean that’s something that we need to developed probably further but a big part of it is just if your sharing interesting content hopefully that’s something your friends might like to see and likewise if you know that your friends have something interesting going on and you might like to see that and as I mentioned before since its all so automatic even if they just sign up once and configure it and you subscribe to them you keep getting their updates for, even if they never come back the FriendFeed, you can keep getting there updates, you know photos they are uploading or videos that they liked on You Tube or stories that they dug or you have to make new blog poster, if they have a blog, you get all that automatically and so its just very easy to get started and also I think that its very good for these other sites because it sends, you know if for example they are using more obscure product like SmugMug which is photo sharing product, most people don’t use it but if I have an account there and I share photos now all of my friends see it even if they were never a SmugMug user.

Bambi Francisco: And for everybody out there who wants to be a part of the services that people can share on FriendFeed they have to, pretty soon you’ll have an API that they can.

Paul Buchheit: Right we are going to work on make it easy for anyone to share things on FriendFeed.

Bambi Francisco: Facebook is trying to integrate more privacy settings. What do you think about privacy?

Paul Buchheit: Well, privacy is obviously very important but I, again this goes back I think Facebook being a very different product to and so you know on Facebook I have my birthday and my cellophane number and things that might be a little bit private. A lot of what people are sharing on FriendFeed is you know I found an interesting article in New York Times, the privacy concerns are out, something like that, aren’t quite the same but at the same time some people just like to keep a little profile and so we also offer that you can just keep your feeds private and you’ll approve anyone who is able to see that.

Bambi Francisco: Three important questions from the business perspective, business model.

Paul Buchheit: Yes.

Bambi Francisco: It wasn’t really clear to me, it looks like advertising may be not but what’s your model?

Paul Buchheit: Well so as you guess, advertising is a likely candidate. Right now really our focus is pretty much entirely on the product and the user experience and really building something that, that people want to use because if you don’t have that it doesn’t, nothing else really matters, but I think that advertising is a very promising possibility but inevitably it will require certain amount of experimentation and just working out exactly what model will work, but I think the fact of that. There is all of this content in there does present some useful possibilities.

Bambi Francisco: Okay but probably low, well we are going to talk about the CPM’s because I have two more questions. What about the big companies? When you think about the big companies out there say even media companies because Continent bought Reddit and so what do you think of Yahoo and Google and Microsoft, how is this disrupted to their current services?

Paul Buchheit: You know I don’t think that it is. We are really trying to, I think build a more synergistic I may use that word, business where we are making all of these sites that are out there really more useful and more social and so in the past you know lot of people maybe weren’t using Reddit to kind of use that example, but I’m using Reddit and I like a story on Reddit and it appears on my FriendFeed and now all of the sudden my friends are all seeing that there is, that I’m using Reddit and that there these stories coming in from Reddit and so I think it really makes everything your already using on the web a little bit more social and a little bit more useful.

Bambi Francisco: Okay and last question you raised $5 million from yourself and you’re the three other Google founders in your team.

Paul Buchheit: One other Google founder.

Bambi Francisco: One other Google founder.

Paul Buchheit: There are four founders but only two of us.

Bambi Francisco: Two from Google, okay and then from Bench Mark as well contributing the $5 million, what was your valuation and what are you going to do with that money?

Paul Buchheit: Evaluation was $20 million plus cash and we are really just using the money to continue growing the business and a lot of it us just a matter of wanting to focus on improving the product and building a great company and not have to think too much about where is next months, you know pay going to come from, so a lot of it is just kind of not wanting to think about that too much right now so that we can focus on the really important parts.

Bambi Francisco: Well good, well good. Well, so far so good. Paul Buchheit, Founder of FriendFeed.  Thank you for joining us.

Paul Buchheit: Thanks.

Bambi Francisco: And I’m Bambi Francisco with Vator TV.