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Posted
31 May 2008 @ 1am

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FriendBinder Review: Social Media Aggregation Done the Boring Way

[Disclaimer: As you read this, please keep in mind that this is a review of a product in its very early stages – my initial assessment here is based on what the service does at this point – this can (and will hopefully) change dramatically as development continues]

I got an early invite for FriendBinder, a lifestreaming and social networking aggregation tool by Richard Cunningham, and, for the first time in the life of this blog, actually agreed to an embargo which expired yesterday.

The name FriendBinder does evoke everybody’s current darling FriendFeed and, to say it bluntly, it doesn’t really compare well at all. It’s a pretty bland aggregator that doesn’t do much beyond – well – aggregating… That aggregation, it does well, but these days, I think most people expect a bit more from their aggregators than just a straightforward display of content.

What does FriendBinder do?

FriendBinder aggregates your friends’ activity on various social networks, including Digg, Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, LastFM, and YouTube and displays them in chronological order.

There is also an option to import ‘News/Blog Subscriptions,’ but the only option here is to upload an OPML file – something which isn’t immediately clear (it took me a day to find where the actual OPML upload function was hidden).

One nice thing about the blog import is that FriendBinder does work as an RSS reader (there is even a little bookmarklet for Firefox) and it does display the full-text of a feed if you wish for it to do so. However, there is no function to mark anything as read or share it with other users, making it’s usefulness pretty limited in that respect.

Beyond that, there isn’t much you can do on the service just yet. There is no commenting function, no built-in social network to connect to other users, no RSS feeds out of the service etc. It’s actually all rather bland.

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Anything interesting here? Nope – not really.

FriendBinder does have one interesting new function, and that is the ability to classify Friend on five different levels. However, at this point, FriendBinder doesn’t do much with that classification – instead, it’s actually quite annoying, as there is no way to just display the activity from all your friends in one view. You have to click your way from level to level instead. Very annoying, especially if you only import a small number of friends.

It also seems to classify those friends by loudness (through the size of a little icon next to the name) – but again – it doesn’t do anything with that information.

One thing FriendBinder does well here is that it makes adding friends from the various social networks networks pretty easy (something new FriendFeed users tend to complain about).

Some Things I Miss

  1. No RSS feeds
  2. No Twitter post-back
  3. No easy way to display messages from all friends
  4. No discovery mechanisms
  5. No social networking tools

Verdict: Boring

In it’s current state, FriendBinder is beyond uninteresting. The bland color scheme reflect the boringness of the service itself. Any aggregation/lifestreaming service has to compare itself to FriendFeed and it’s various competitors. At this point, in its current state of development, I recommend you don’t bother with FriendBinder at all. Services like Yokway and Shyftr are doing far more interesting things in the same space and have a better user interface.

At the very least, I expect FriendBinder to have some rudimentary social networking functions built-in to make things somewhat interesting and usueful- especially given the ‘binder’ in its name…

Now, as usual with these early reviews, it’s important to remember that FriendBinder is still in its early stages of development. There is definitely some potential here, but it’s going to take quite some more work.

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