Web 2.0’s Gateway Drug

By gum, I think I’ve got it. My post yesterday on breaking out of our insular tech bubble to evangelize to the mass consumer spurred a good discussion on FriendFeed. There was much agreement around the idea that sharing all these neat Internet tools with mass consumers is needed. But how to do that? There were a couple of angles to the conversation: one, how to share our general insider knowledge with consumers and two, how to get people involved in FriendFeed specifically. Clare Dibble made a good point regarding the latter; that non-techies don’t have to sign up for the myriad services on FriendFeed to delve into the site. Simply by adding the FriendFeed share button to their browsers, they can start submitting interesting articles and watch the conversations ensue.

It was then that the light bulb went off. FriendFeed is the gateway to Web 2.0 for mass consumers. It’s incredibly easy to jump into, easy to navigate and easy to participate; not many people have a hard time figuring out what the “comment” button means. It’s also the rarest of services, in which it doesn’t take long to get the draw. Spend two hours in there and you’re hooked. There are a couple of ways FriendFeed could roll out to consumers. Introduce FriendFeed as a way to share and discuss articles with your friends and find the good stuff from people you trust. Once consumers dip their toes in, have a taste of the recommended friends feature and see the tangential relationships that form, they’ll start exploring the other applications that pop up. “What’s this Last.fm service? What are these little 140-character sentences I keep seeing? Who the hell is Robert Scoble?” You get the idea. Honestly, it’s like a gateway drug. Draw them in with something harmless and easy to understand, then watch them drift toward the hard stuff. I’ll stop that analogy there before it goes any further.

Another option would be to offer first-timers a bundled package of services from which to start. If you’re a media buff, here’s YouTube, Netflix, Last.fm, and Pandora to get you started. Or even bundled packages of friends – FriendFeed old-timers that wouldn’t mind being followed by strangers. Want a tech infusion? Here’s Robert Scoble and Mark Hopkins. Looking for music lovers? Try Jonathan Coulton and Fred Wilson. I know my friend Shellee trolled the Everyone tab to find fellow politicos; wouldn’t it have been great to offer her a ready-made feed?

The question of how to share general emerging tech knowledge with a larger audience needs more discussion and thought. It’s something those of us on the inside need to be continually pondering. But perhaps a good first step lies in sharing easy-to-grasp products that can have a positive effect on people’s lives, without submersing them in the intricacies of one hundred different services.



  1. Corvida said

    This was great to read and I agree that FriendFeed could be the gateway to web 2.0 because of it’s ease of use. Though, newbs would have to watch out for those who update a million times a day, until they get the hang of things.

  2. Disclaimer: I’m the kind of guy who avoids Web services until they’ve become really popular. And, I’ve never used FriendFeed.

    I like the idea of a Gateway Drug for the Interwebs. But, is FriendFeed really the answer? Most people on the Web: 1) Don’t read as much as subscribers to this blog do 2) Don’t see the value in sharing things with their friends (other than dropping a link in an e-mail) 3) Don’t want to engage in conversations about so many different things.

    There’s often an underlying assumption that everyone wants to engage in a conversation. I do sometimes, and other times I just want to be a consumer. Maybe I’m old school, but I can hardly keep up with my current (and recently reduced) blogroll, my Facebook, my blog, and my Twitter.

  3. carlacthompson said

    Hmmm, you make an interesting point Mark. There are many who wish to be observers rather than participants. And for them, Web 2.0 doesn’t have a lot of draw. I’d argue with your point, though, about not seeing the value in sharing things. I think dropping a link in an email and addressing it to umpteen people has seen its day. I think people want more convenience than that and still want to share interesting items with friends. I’m awfully immersed in this stuff though, so could very easily be fooling myself.

  4. stepwinder said

    This is exactly how I dragged my husband to FriendFeed. I cut him off…no more burying me under e-mails with random links. Told him to channel it to FriendFeed where I’d check it out when I had the time for Internet randomness.

    And boy is FriendFeed the gateway to Internet randomness…That everyone tab has cost me hours during the day!

  5. I still don’t see it happening. If that were the case, Google Reader would be it, since virtually everyone already has a Google account of some kind, whether it’s Gmail or iGoogle. Or they could use StumbleUpon without the signal to noise ratio.

    I’m groaning every day when the FriendFeed summary email shows up in my inbox. Can I bring myself to just trash it immediately? Or do I put it off until later, scanning it just in case I missed something important (which never seems to be the case)? To me, it’s still just chatter on top of more chatter; one more social network I feel pressured to join but really doesn’t help the conversation. And the comments on-site rather than on the entries will never stop bothering me, as a blogger.

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