Still using Facebook? Loser. All the cool kids have either been BANNED or quit in disgust. Facebook could be about to become this year’s MySpace (remember MySpace?). The relaunch of Netvibes with the new Ginger feature set has seen the customisable ‘start page’ build the familiar elments that comprise its RSS-feed aggregating, drag-and-drop widget house into a fully-fledged attempt at a social networking platform: it pulls feeds in, it spits them out again to your subscribers. This includes status updates and ‘walls’. Sound familiar?
Of course it does, you idiot. Unfortunately for Facebook, it would never have been long before this began to happen. Predictably it took MySpace longer than it should have to introduce status updates on its service, but it’s not the only competition. You could now spend all day updating all your status messages across different services if you wanted. This had obviously become apparent to developers, which is why there’s been a sudden slew of new services promising to help you aggregate and maintain all your other services and the services subscribed to by your friends. Services.
Some folk are calling this ‘lifestreaming’ (me for example, just then) and sites like Second Brain and the mildly terrifying Spokeo (‘Spookio’ might have been more accurate) already do a pretty good job of aggregating common feeds in and out and finding those emitted by those you wish to stalk.
The thing is, Facebook could come out of this very well in the long term. They just need to open up and embrace the wider web. The vast majority of Facebook users are not going to be getting Second Brains in the near future, mostly because they couldn’t give two shits about RSS feeds or social bookmarking. But it’s not impossible that the more enthusiastic casual web users will soon pick up Netvibes accounts, especially as they can use Netvibes to incorporate common activities like checking webmail, monitoring eBay bids – and indeed, Facebook updates.
Netvibes is a lot less uptight about how you use it. Facebook ‘applications’, as we all know, are an absolute chore at the best of times and when you want to do something simple with your favourite external service – like adding a feed of your latest pictures on Flickr, for example – the experience is rarely satisfactory. This is mostly, I suspect, because Facebook want us to stay within their little blue and white garden, and use their photo sharing features. At the same time, Facebook are tentatively sullying the focal point of information with advertising (sorry, ‘sponsored messages’).
So, the ball’s in your court, Facebook. Are you going to start playing nicely and become my lifestreaming tool of choice, or are you going to stagnate while Netvibes and the rest get on the social networking bandwagon?