FriendFeed Updates API, Gets Bought, What Next?

Adam DuVander, August 24th, 2009

FriendFeedIt’s rare that developers question using a useful and innovative API that just graduated from its “beta” tag. But that may be the case with FriendFeed, which stole its own spotlight when it was acquired by Facebook. The new FriendFeed API v2.0 has a host of promising new features, the most impressive of which are its real time capabilities: any feed, as well as search, is available essentially as soon as it is created (more at our FriendFeed API profile).

The API update also included a much-anticipated addition of OAuth. With it, developers can create powerful applications on top of FriendFeed without having to directly ask their users for credentials. Further, FriendFeed opened up access and multiple sharing options, giving more power for developers to create their own interface to the service.

All that is in limbo now, as we attempt to determine how much of FriendFeed will remain. There’s some solace in the post announcing the acquisition:

“The FriendFeed API will also continue to operate normally. As above, we will let you know as we settle on our plan to more fully integrate with Facebook.”

It’s likely that FriendFeed will ultimately be absorbed by its new owner. And who can blame Facebook? It could benefit from some of the features in the new FriendFeed API.

OpenFF group on FriendFeed

Not everyone is just waiting to see how this will turn out. A few hundred developers have joined a group to discuss an open source clone (using FriendFeed, of course). Open standards pioneer Dave Winer has suggested that the project start with the API.

FriendFeed founder Paul Buchheit weighed in positively:

“The project is fine with me. I’ve always said that the right way forward for these services (including ff and twitter) is to build open, federated systems, similar to email. Federation is a little tricky (which is why we haven’t done it yet), but I generally think centralized systems just aren’t good in the long term.”

That bit at the end, about centralized systems, will be the challenge. Facebook often is torn between being the largest walled garden on the Web versus being an accessible API-powered platform that’s everywhere. So it will be interesting to see how Buchheit and the FriendFeed team influence Facebook and their API strategy going forward.

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Adam DuVander
Executive Editor, ProgrammableWeb. Author, Map Scripting 101. Lover, APIs.