It’s really sad to see such a great service as FriendFeed not really taking off. As has been said, the service is probably a bit overwhelming for new users simply because of the amount of data coming in from each of your friends and rooms (even if you follow just one or two people). I also have to agree with most of the points Lewis Gray wrote about how to improve FriendFeed to open it up to new users. I especially have to agree with “FriendFeed Needs to Better Define What It Is and How People Use It”. It has tons of features but every time you hear “FriendFeed”, someone else mentions Twitter and a comparison starts. Even if the two of them are not really comparable, in my opinion. For example, I registered on FF soon after it went live and all I used it for was content aggregation. I knew that I could also use it for commenting on stuff and much more but never really used it that way.
But then in early November it got an XMPP Gateway service and I was completely hooked up again … although, I guess, this is just yet another pro-level feature new users won’t really be interested in right way. On the other hand, this was at least the point, where I could see myself using it more ;-) That said, I’m not really convinced that FF needs a desktop app. I think it was the right way to go with XMPP for delivery and hopefully in the future more clients will support XHTML-IM, so you could end up with some real nice frontends on top of XMPP and FF if you need to. But for now, the focus should be to make the core experience via the website more (new-)user-friendly.
Having the whole help-section compressed into just a single (yet huge) page doesn’t help here, either. Especially if it only contains a single screenshot (about cookie settings of all things). If nothing else, the tutorial videos produced by Ross Miller should get a more prominent place on the site.
There are also a handful of other things I’d really love to see improved there (OpenID support, tagging etc.) but these won’t really help making the whole service more accessible to new users.