Facebook’s news feed was not a novel idea

An analog clock reading 12:242013-09-12 / 2013-W37-4T12:24:57+00:00 / 0x5231b299

Categories: Internet culture

Today in Slate, Farhad Manjoo celebrates the 7th birthday of Facebook’s news feed feature.

Get this: Before news feed, which launched seven years ago this month, you could post a picture or some other personal detail somewhere—your Facebook or MySpace or Friendster page, Flickr, Blogger, LiveJournal—and be reasonably sure that it would remain just there, unseen by pretty much everyone you knew. The only way someone might find it is by checking your page. Sure, some people would do that—but everyone had scores of connections online, so no one was checking each of their friends’ pages. The net effect was solitude.

Sorry, but this is complete bunk. Every LiveJournal user has a friends page, which shows all recent entries by their LJ friends. When I joined LiveJournal in July 2001, over 12 years ago and before Facebook even existed, LiveJournal had this feature already. Granted, as LiveJournal never attained the market penetration that Facebook has, posting something to your LiveJournal was never as effective at spreading your news as posting to Facebook today. But that’s due to Facebook benefiting from a network effect on a scale that LiveJournal never did.

I wouldn’t dispute that Facebook’s news feed is an important feature that has allowed for those network effects. Without the news feed, the site would just be a glorified directory and messaging service. But it’s an absurd revision of Internet history to say that Mark Zuckerberg and his friends, as smart as they are, came up with the idea from scratch.