Lifestream: whats the big deal?


I really don’t get what all the hoopla is about “lifestreams” or “social aggregators”. They are //all over// the place these days and frankly I’m getting quite sick of them. If you have no clue what I’m talking about, Dan Taylor has a [[http://www.fabricoffolly.com/2008/03/review-of-social-aggregators.html|great review]] of 15 lifestream services ([[http://mashable.com|Mashable]] has a [[http://mashable.com/2007/07/17/social-network-aggregators/|similar survey]] of 20 aggregators).

First of all, there is **nothing new** in the technology. It is almost trivial to write your own bare bones feed aggregator. Here is a ugly, skeletal social aggregator in **THREE** lines of Python (note that I’m not counting the list of the feeds itself) using the excellent [[http://feedparser.org|Feed Parser]] module:


feeds = [
"http://del.icio.us/rss/diwakergupta",
"http://ws.audioscrobbler.com/1.0/user/diwakergupta/recenttracks.rss"
]

import feedparser
for feed in feeds:
result = feedparser.parse(feed)
print result.entries

Granted its not pretty, but you can imagine its not terribly hard to make it pretty. Even otherwise, [[http://www.planetplanet.org/|Planet]] has been around for almost forever, even before RSS and feeds took off like they have recently. There are plugins that achieve the same for pretty much any platform you can think of: WordPress, Drupal, Dokuwiki, Mambo, Joomla — you name it, and they probably have RSS aggregation built in.

So if technology is not the bling, what is? Undoubtedly its the social aspect of it, I hear you say! Don’t we have enough social networks already? Are you so bored by the flood of updates in your FaceBook mini-feed, that you want to engage in //yet another// social network that has //all// of your feeds?

And finally, what exactly is the business model? Everyone likes to throw around words like “revenue”, “monetization”, “personalization”, “value aggregation”, “API” etc but we have yet to see a demonstrably sustainable model. Others have raised [[http://headphono.us/2008/02/28/48-friendfeed-launches-wheres-lifestreaming-headed/|similar concerns]].

I can’t help but sense a much-ado-about-nothing kind of feeling. I rest my case with [[http://www.friendfeedfeed.com/|FriendFeedFeed]].

2 comments

  1. Abhijit Nadgouda

    The reason there are so many of them is that it is so easy to get it up and running. The difficult part is to provide unique value to people which will define the business model. I think the trend today is to try and make it simpler for the layman. But aggregators start getting increasingly personal as we use them, to a point where most of the aggregators cannot provide that kind of personalization, and we go looking for a new one.

  2. Diwaker Gupta

    *@abhijit*: I don’t see much “personalization” in most aggregators. In most cases, the network effect is the most dominant factor. Once you have a few key users, their friends and friends of friends start using the service. Services that miss this critical mass growth early on have the quickest fallouts. Even if a service can some how encourage user loyalty, it still doesn’t immediately translate to revenue. Unless of course your exit strategy is a Google buyout or an eBay sale :-)

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