Four software designers who were instrumental in the creation of Google’s popular e-mail and mapping services have founded a new company with the intent of making it easy for people to find out what Web material their friends are enjoying.The company, FriendFeed, is the brainchild of Bret Taylor and Jim Norris, two of the programmers who built Google Maps. Several months ago the two men, both Stanford-trained computer scientists, teamed with Paul Buchheit and Sanjeev Singh, who were members of the original Gmail software design team.
Mr. Taylor said he and Mr. Norris left Google this year to create a company focused on data storage technologies, but they shifted direction several months ago.
FriendFeed users can see what their friends are reading, listening to or viewing on the Web as a continuous stream of notifications. This stream can appear on a personal Web page or in a module on the user’s customized page on Facebook or Google. The system does not require the installation of software, but it does require the friends to participate.
The system can track people’s activities on a variety of Web sites, ranging from collaborative news filtering sites like Digg and Slashdot to music services like Last.fm and video and photo services like YouTube and Flickr.
FriendFeed now supports 23 Web services, and it also permits users to comment on postings and carry on online discussions.
“This gives you a snapshot of what people you know think is interesting,” Mr. Taylor said. “It’s kind of a blog that writes itself.”
FriendFeed will be made available to several thousand users on Monday, and new users will gradually be permitted to join after that.
The designers said they were aware that theirs is not a unique effort to find simple ways to share online content. Other sharing services include Kaboodle, which Hearst acquired last month, and Clipmarks, which Forbes has bought. Plum is an independent start-up that has designed a free Web service for collecting and sharing online information.
Google itself recently created a feature for capturing and sharing Web pages called Shared Stuff that it has not yet publicly announced.
The creators of FriendFeed say their system is intended to be as simple as possible. “I like this because it doesn’t require me to do anything new,” Mr. Taylor said.
Before teaming up with the other former Google programmers, Mr. Buchheit, who was an early Google employee and left the company after it went public, had been working as a private investor. But he said he enjoyed the “purity” of designing a product from scratch and getting feedback from thousands of users.