FriendFeed is a unique tool that aggregates updates from over 50 popular social networking services, including Twitter, Facebook, Delicious, Flickr, Digg, LinkedIn, and many others. Once you join and configure the service, your updates to any of the associated networks are automatically pulled into a single view, which your friends can easily follow. For instance, when you share a link on Delicious, update your Twitter status, or join a new group on LinkedIn, FriendFeed neatly summarizes that activity in one consolidated list.
Windows Live’s “web activities” feature aims to do something very similar. While Microsoft’s burgeoning social network doesn’t sport nearly as many services as FriendFeed (the current list includes about 30 partners), it has recently expanded its offering to include Facebook and Digg, among others. Web activities provide a similar “life-streaming” strategy, automatically posting updates to your central “what’s new feed” and notifying network friends and RSS subscribers whenever an associated service is used.
Until today, the developers of these competing platforms had been very careful not to mix the two. This morning, Windows Live developers tentatively rolled out FriendFeed as a new web activity, with disastrous results.
“Everything was running smoothly for the first five minutes or so,” said senior Windows Live team member, Richard Astley. “Then, all hell broke loose.”
Uber-connected Windows Live user Greg Edwards, who also happens to be an avid FriendFeed user, added the new web activity to his profile. Seconds later, he sent a tweet from the TweetDeck desktop program, which was picked up by Facebook almost instantly. Both Windows Live and FriendFeed saw the updates and began propagating them across both networks with blinding speed. FriendFeed updated Windows Live, and vice versa. Within 2.3*10-43 seconds, all global Internet traffic was brought to a grinding halt.
“We pulled the plug as fast as we could,” explained Astley. “But it was too late, the cascade had already started.”
As the fabric of space-time ripped, a pinpoint singularity formed over Microsoft’s campus and immediately engulfed the known universe. Microsoft engineers have spent the better part of the day working to restore reality to affected users.
“In retrospect, we probably should have spent more time working out the logistics to avoid this kind of loop,” admitted Astley. “We’ll do our best to avoid it in the next release. We just didn’t anticipate that anyone could be that connected.”
When asked about the offending tweet, Edwards reported that it simply said, “Looking forward to the new Star Trek movie.”