With the current buzz about Google Wave, it is difficult not to feel sorry for FriendFeed. The common ground between Wave and FriendFeed is indeed pretty rich : real time communication, threaded conversations, lightweight social networking… Some people even suggest that there is some irony in seeing Google rip off good ideas from FriendFeed, the latter being founded by ex-googlers.
However, there is something peculiar about Wave : apart from the very Googly UI, the infrastructure is meant to be opened and decentralized. Wave can be seen as a way to collaboratively edit an XML document (the wavelets, with are the basic communication nodes found in waves). The point is that this XML document can be replicated on many providers’ infrastructures, and updates are propagated through extensions of the XMPP protocol (XMPP is AKA Jabber, it’s an instant messaging protocol that Google Talk also uses with extensions).
Check out this paper about Google Wave Federation Infrastructure.
So, we are not really in a winnner-takes-all scenario. Now, if I where FriendFeed, I’d have two choices, now.
1) Decide this is a Fire and Motion move from Google, aimed at first at Microsoft (to take the wind out of Bing), then Facebook, then FriendFeed. Keep away from this game, and slowly become an awesome app no one uses, dedicated to geeks and power users, and watch people have all the fun out there on Wave or Facebook.
2) Embrace Google Wave Federation Protocol and build gateways and proxies that enable FriendFeed users to participate into Google Wave discussion without leaving their favorite UI. Of course this means that FriendFeed might become a victim of the Fire and Motion scheme : Google adds new stuff into Google Wave, FriendFeed runs to support it, then Google adds new stuff, and on and on, which means that FF could loose its technical leadership on the market. However, there is certainly room for more than one Wave provider, and if this new way of communication becomes mainstream, this could mean that FriendFeed would at last find a way out of Geekland and reach a wide audience, wider than it is currently now. Then launch a feature war with Google on the social networking or real-time search front, both fronts on which they have already proven that they good do very well.
So, depending on the choice they make now, I think Google Wave could actually be good news for FriendFeed, turning their awesome power-app into the second player in a potentially huge new market.