FriendFeed Lives On (In Spirit): Tornado 2.0 Released

When Facebook acquired FriendFeed in September 2009, my heart sank a bit. I was happy for those guys, but I knew FriendFeed would never be the same despite the talk of FriendFeed staying alive. Now, nearly two years later, it’s clear that my fears were not unfounded. But not all has been lost.

A month after the deal, Facebook did something refreshing. They took much of the technology behind FriendFeed, bundled it up, and released it as Tornado, an open source real-time frame work for the web. Developers have been putting it to good use ever since — Quora and Hipmunk use it, for example. And today brings version 2.0.

Ben Darnell announced the new version earlier this evening in the Tornado Google Group. As he notes, the major changes are as follows:

  • Template output is automatically escaped by default; see backwards compatibility note below.
  • The default AsyncHTTPClient implementation is now simple_httpclient.
  • Python 3.2 is now supported.

Yes, that’s all pretty technical. And no, I don’t know what a lot of it actually means. But the folks in the Tornado Google Group seem excited. There’s a bit more on the Tornado website, including the warning that “Tornado 2.0 introduces several potentially backwards-incompatible changes”.

It’s great to see Tornado not only still alive and kicking, but being updated. What’s not entirely clear is if Facebook has any role at all in it anymore? At first glance, it doesn’t look that way, beyond the code residing in a Facebook folder on GitHub. Originally, Facebook was all gung-ho about the project, with a post on the Developers blog and a personal post from (now Facebook CTO) Bret Taylor. Now we just get a Google Groups announcement. But who knows, maybe Facebook will have more to say tomorrow.

Right now, it looks more like Darnell is the man fully in charge. On the Commits page, I see only one person’s face that is not Darnell’s in the past month.

The former Googler/former FriendFeeder was put in charge of the project while he was still at Facebook after the acquisition. But he himself left shortly thereafter to join the startup Brizzly. Brizzly was then acquired by AOL last year (right before they acquired us). I actually have no idea if Darnell is still with AOL or not (you think I would given that I too work for AOL). I’ve asked him current/former boss, Jason Shellen, but haven’t heard back.

In other words, I have no clue who is actually doing what with Tornado. But I suppose that’s the beauty of open source. A little piece of FriendFeed lives on.

Update: Shellen tells us that Darnell is at DropBox now.