Following the August acquisition of FriendFeed by Facebook, the site's loyal users are still waiting for news about whether the social network and aggregator has a future, or barring that, when elements of the site will start populating Facebook. But for the most part, there has been little news, and some are pointing to reduced traffic and engagement there as signs the product will just fade away - even as I hear rumors that's not the case. But this week, we learned of the first high-profile defection from the FriendFeed ranks at Facebook, as highly-respected engineer Gary Burd, who also counts Google and Microsoft on his resume, quit the social networking giant this Wednesday.
Burd, who helped develop the Trident HTML rendering engine, a main ingredient in Microsoft's Internet Explorer 4, during his seven years at the Redmond monolith, and also contributed to Google projects including Google Talk during his four-year stint in Mountain View, joined FriendFeed in June of 2008 after he had independently developed a service that let users update the site via e-mail, called Mail2FF. Following his hire, the company rebranded it as "FriendFeed by e-mail" and made it an official feature of the service.
After seeing a tweet by Gary that said simply, "Last day.", Gary wrote me to confirm he had left Facebook, because he does not enjoy telecommuting. He lives in the Seattle, Washington area, and will be looking for projects locally, after telecommuting with FriendFeed for nearly a year and a half. Not coincidentally, Gary also posted a tweet that read "Last Day!" when leaving Google in March of 2008. (By the way, don't read too much into his tweet mentioning a new MySpace profile, assuming he'll go there next.)
During his time at FriendFeed, Gary worked on projects including the service's real-time API, a dedicated IM client, the Simple Update Protocol (SUP) and most notably, real-time search by topic, a fix for the much-desired Twitter tool, Track.
Gary's track record should no doubt make him an extremely valuable recruit for companies in the Seattle area, and his leaving is absolutely Facebook's loss. While not as visible a defection as if any of FriendFeed's cofounders opted out of Facebook, it does tend to raise more questions in a time when many people are still looking for answers.