3 social media aggregators that bring it all together

Connect the different services that keep you connected

The fact that Flock is a download has its pros and cons. On the plus side, Flock doesn't require you to give the keys to your social media to just any old third-party Web site, and that helps to preserve your online security. On the minus side, social media aggregation is just one aspect of Flock--it's a complete Web browser, and unless you want to switch your Web browsing duties over to Flock entirely, using Flock just for social media aggregation is a bit like carrying around an entire toolbox when all you use is one screwdriver. (Some people won't find that bothersome in the least.)

Also, since Flock is not Web-based, you can access your aggregated social media via Flock only on computers where you can download and install the application, meaning you'll be out of luck on most public and some work computers.

FriendFeed

FriendFeed was one of the first social media aggregators to hit the scene in a big way. Founded by a handful of former Google employees, FriendFeed consolidates social updates from 58 services (at the time of this writing), from Facebook and Twitter to Google Reader, Last.fm, and even Netflix (letting your buddies know what movies you've queued).

In stark contrast to the other two offerings compared here, which pull your friends' activity directly from your social sites into a centralized tool, FriendFeed focuses more on you, allowing you to pull all of your social output into one central location. That is, rather than providing you with a single place to keep track your buddies' output, the first thing FriendFeed does is provide your friends with a single place to keep track of you.

For example, FriendFeed can aggregate all of your tweets, Facebook status updates, and even posts from your blog, so rather than your trying to update all of your social sites every time you do something on the Web, your friends can just subscribe to your FriendFeed to see all of your updates in one place, no matter where you've posted them. As an added bonus, your friends don't have to go looking for you every time you start a new account somewhere, since presumably you'd add any new social accounts to your FriendFeed.

FriendFeed is laid out a lot like Twitter, but instead of showing just tweets, it collects everything you do online (or at least everything you do on a connected service). If you really like the FriendFeed interface, you can post updates to FriendFeed and Twitter simultaneously from your home page. As an added bonus, when you follow people on FriendFeed, you get access to all of their updates in real time--you don't even have to refresh your browser.

Next: Which Aggregator Is for You?

Which Aggregator Is for You?

Now that you've seen what each social media aggregator can do, you're probably wondering which you should use. It depends on what you want to get from an aggregator, and how much time you are willing to invest to get those results.

FriendFeed does an excellent job of plugging all of your social output into a centralized river of social updates, but it's really only as good as your friends' willingness to adopt it (and creating imaginary friends is just too much work for something that's supposed to make your life easier).

Streamy's tabbed dashboard approach provides a nice way to keep track of your various social media sites, but it falls short of truly bringing all of them together under one roof.

Since most of your online social activity takes place in a Web browser, Flock's complete integration of a browser and social sites is impressive--but it requires you to jump feet first into an entirely new browser, something that you may not be willing to do (browsers have become almost as personal a choice as operating systems these days).

Ultimately, it's a toss-up between Flock and FriendFeed.

If Flock's People sidebar were available as a separate, stand-alone download (à la the popular Facebook and Twitter tool, TweetDeck), it would show all kinds of potential. In contrast, FriendFeed is awesome as is, but its usefulness is determined by breadth of adoption (or lack thereof), and convincing your friends that it's time to sign up for yet another social portal is easier said than done.

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Adam Pash

PC World (US online)
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