Facebook and RSS out

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(photo by: mariachisamurai)

Dave Winer pointed out that RSS feeds are now available for your Friends Status, Friends Posted and Notifications pages in Facebook. The friends updates have been around for a while but the notifications feed might be new. An astute comment on the Techcrunch post about this news says:

The news feed really was a stroke of genius. As simple of concepts as they are, the feed plus the simple little “X” that lets you remove an item from your history are the two most important features.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the two feeds they’ve opened up have direct competitors. Status plays to Twitter and Jaiku, while Posted Items play to Digg and Pownce.

Without any worthwhile competitor to a comprehensive news feed of friends, I’m betting Facebook will keep that info behind the wall.

There is no real competition to the comprehensive News feed and Mini-feed which is core to Facebook’s value as a destination site. Facebook’s FAQ on their RSS feeds explains the difference between the published RSS feeds and the News and Mini feeds:

The Atom feed or RSS feed of your friends’ notes, statuses, or posted items or an individual user’s notes, statuses, or posted items contains that content only, whereas News Feed contains stories about photo postings, relationship changes, etc. Also, your News Feed won’t show a story every time one of your friends posts a note to Facebook; your News Feed only contains the stories we think you’ll be the most interested in. The RSS or Atom feeds of a user’s notes or your friends’ notes, for example will contain every note posted.

There are subtle nuances in what Facebook shows you. There is some “special sauce” which calculates what “they think” you’ll be interested in. That’s not something an RSS feed can calculate unless it can be vectored against meta-data about your friends and your stated interests.

This is where it gets interesting. Both Fred Wilson and Mark Mezrich post at length about yesterday. You can pull in all the status updates and news updates you want from all over the web but it’s all just noise unless it can be filtered in a unique and meaningful way. We’re approaching a world where you should be able to swap your friend networks in and out as a social filter on anything you look at online.

Last.fm is great for finding people with similar musical tastes and finding new music you might like. What about using that same network to find something good to read? How about swapping out your favorite Yelp restaurant reviewers and directing them to pick out the best stove for your kitchen? Like the device used by the eye doctor when you get new glasses, swap in a new lens and make what is blurry today crystal clear. Is the solution to make social networks as interchangeable as the lenses at the eye doctor?

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