Michael Arrington has a thought-provoking post at TechCrunch where he discusses the fragmentation of user’s identities across the web (listening habits on Last.FM, photos on Flickr, etc), FriendFeed’s goal of bringing it all back together, and the competing impulses of data centralization & decentralization. He asks an important question: do users want a “home base” where friends can find all their data, or do they prefer the decentralization?
Do we want aggregators like FriendFeed & Plaxo? Or maybe something more like Multiply?
Waaay down in the comments section, though, David Hersh articulates an even better point:
Seems to me that this is a problem that the vast majority of internet users simply don’t have. They don’t have a decentralized me. They’ve got a facebook me, or a myspace me, or a shutterfly me, and frankly, not much else. The question of whether or not this will change over time is certainly valid, but with people’s propensity towards simple, easy to use, one-stop shops, I think it’s far from a given.
In the Web 2.0 bubble we tend to forget that (generously) only 20% of the world population regularly uses the internet. Of those, how many are using/have the need for something like Flickr? Of those, how many are using so many web services that they need an aggregator to tame the chaos? We need to keep in mind that this is very much an invented “problem” that only a sliver of the web needs to deal with.
All that having been said, it’s true that there’s an audience looking for a one-stop shop for their fragmented web presence. FriendFeed faces an uphill battle since Facebook is allowing users to add third-party site info into the newsfeed, and Facebook has the publicity and the massive user base.