Watch the sequence very carefully: First, Facebook changed their status feeds into a Twitter-like live stream, then they introduced their own version of real-time search, after that they acquired FriendFeed, and now they plan to launch Facebook Lite – a simplified (twitterified?) version of Facebook itself -.
Their obsession with Twitter is far beyond my comprehension! With their huge size, and continuous growth, they can’t be threatened by the increased popularity of Twitter. It probably has something to do with their strategy of biting off chuncks of every aspect of the social networking market. But the question is, do Twitter’s features really suit Facebook’s digestion system? How far should Facebook go in changing its anatomy in order to catch up with Twitter’s *cool* appeal?
Broadcast vs. Feed
Facebook is for feeds – mostly friends’ feeds -, Twitter is for broadcast; this is a core and fundamental difference that defines the nature of both services. You log on to Facebook in order to check out your friends’ activities and connect with them, while on Twitter you log on in order to say something, broadcast it, and promote it to the world. It is not common to add people who you don’t know over Facebook, but it is very common to follow and be followed by people you have never met in your life on Twitter and start some conversations with them. Facebook friends are also limited in number; you can only add up to 5000 friends, which limits the broadcasting capabilities for those trying to reach more people, unlike Twitter, where there is no limit whatsoever. In my opinion, even though many companies and celebrities find Facebook’s fan pages useful, I don’t think it gives Facebook a business and marketing value as Twitter does.
Facebook doesn’t pose a threat to Twitter either
Last week, Mashable published an article that questions Twitter’s ability to survive as an independent entity with the presumed Facebook threat. The article posed a question of whether it is time for Twitter to sell or not. I, personally believe, that the answer is “NO”, they shouldn’t sell! Why sell when it is still the coolest new web platform with an incredible steady growth rate? Why sell when it has become the main source for what’s happening right now anywhere in the world?
Twitter created a new way of obtaining and distributing information that wasn’t (and still isn’t) available anywhere else on the Internet. It created a database for real-time information sharing that’s challenging even Google’s traditional way of searching for information. Just check out TwitScoop or Twitterfall to see what’s hot now around the world. In my opinion, Twitter poses more of a threat to Google’s search dominance rather than Facebook’s social networking platform. If anyone has to do some changes in the way they do business, then it should be Google not Facebook… Bing did.
Facebook may benefit from micro-blogging in a way that adds another way of connecting with your friends and staying up-to-date, but it is in no way an open micro-blogging platform where you can connect with the world and not just your friends. Facebook’s usage revolves around the ability for users to set and control their privacy settings, doesn’t this fact, by itself, make Facebook’s attempt on Twitter’s market share (if it is what they’re trying to do) pointless? I mean, by default your Twitter profile is open to anyone, unless you choose otherwise. That’s why Twitter excels in what it offers. Facebook, on the other hand, is more closed to just your friends, unless you specifically loosen your privacy settings.
It seems that Facebook is going to continue to keep trying to ride Twitter’s tide, but that would result in some drastic changes to the anatomy of its services, which might lead to leaving its users angry and dissatisfied. It happened before when they changed the status feeds into stream feeds without preparing its users. This will happen again if they continue on “twitterifing” Facebook. For instance, imagine that strangers will start following you and reading your status updates on Facebook just as they do on Twitter! That would literally be Facebook shooting itself in the foot!
There is room for both Facebook and Twitter to coexist. One doesn’t have to take the market share of the other, and one doesn’t have to clone the other. It is becoming trendy for software giants to offer every other service that exists on the web, each one wants to be a one stop shop for all. Thank God entrepreneurs are innovative and creative enough to keep on coming up with new ideas that challenge such dominance.
Finally, I would like to ask you: Do you see any value for Facebook’s continuous attempts to mimic Twitter? Will it really pose a threat to Twitter?