Can Facebook Steal Twitter?

Most people reading this already know about both Twitter and Facebook.  They seem to be the big 2 right now and we also know that Facebook made some kind of attempt to buy Twitter, but there was no deal made.  People have been trying to pull the details out of Evan Williams, CEO of Twitter, like a dentist pulling wisdom teeth.  But, in this situation, there is no Novocaine and the teeth aren’t coming out today.

Twitter’s got something, and while most people don’t know what that something is, there is no denying that it is there.  They are growing at an exponential rate and everyone seems to be jumping on the Twitter bandwagon.

Facebook, on the other hand, has been making a slow ascent to greatness ever since they opened up to the general public, and those of us who had already graduated from college long before such things as Myspace and Facebook existed, were finally allowed to join.  Add to that the development of the Facebook API platform and something special happened at Facebook.  Now, with over 175 million people sharing photos, sending out status updates, links, and playing games on the site, they are ready to be THE social network.

But, it’s funny, Facebook has this little itch on the roof of their mouth that they can’t quite scratch; Twitter.  I don’t know what happened with the deal, how much they offered Twitter ($500 million was speculated, but I don’t think it was ever confirmed), or any of that, but I do know that Twitter, for whatever reason, turned them down.  Perhaps it wasn’t enough money.  Perhaps it was as Evan Williams told Charlie Rose, that there is too much potential for Twitter at this point and it would be a shame and a disservice to us all to let it be gobbled up by ‘The Face’ at this point.  Regardless of the details of the deal, what we can be sure of is that Facebook will continue to be Facebook and Twitter will continue to be Twitter for a little while (apparently Google isn’t interested either).

Facebook has a lot of money and a lot of quality people working for them.  And, they might, just might, be able to steal Twitter without making a deal at all.  On March 4th, they announced some changes to the News Feed we are all used to staring at when we log in to Facebook:

…We’re also going to make some changes to the home page. The new home page will let you see everything that’s shared by your friends and connections as it happens. It will also provide you more control by letting you choose exactly who you see among the people and things you are connected to. You can decide you no longer want to get updates from your old friend from high school who you rarely talk to, or you can filter the stream to only see updates about your family members. And now, if you want, you can read what President Obama is saying on the same page as your best friend. You can find out what it is your mother, your high school classmate or President Obama are doing, thinking and sharing right now just by logging into Facebook.

We’ll begin rolling out the new home page next week, so please check out our home page tour to see the new design and let us know what you think about it. This is an exciting move for us and we have more coming, so keep an eye on the blog for more updates about upcoming products.

The new Facebook Stream will basically be Twitter, but not limited to 140 character.  Plus, you will have the option to filter whose information you see.  Pretty cool.  But, is this really Twitter?

The Difference

Yes, it will be Twitter-like, but not exactly the same.  The main difference lies in the “who.”  Facebook is dedicated to helping you “connect and share with the people in your life.”  This means, for most users, your friends are made up of actual friends, family, co-workers, and old high school and college acquaintances.  These are all people you know.  These are people whose email addresses you probably have, or whose phone number is in your cell phone.  At the very least, these are people whom you have, at some point, talked to face to face.

This doesn’t hold true for Twitter.  Perhaps out in Palo Alto people are following people they mostly know.  But, for the vast majority of users, the people you follow on Twitter are people who have similar interests as you.  They are people who tweet things about topics you are interested in.  And, perhaps you will engage followers in conversation from time to time, but for the most part, you are just reading peoples’ tweets and contributing your own thoughts.  It’s kind of like the old AOL chat rooms, except you get to pick who is in the room with you…even if they don’t pick you to be in their room.

This leads in to the next big difference!  On Facebook, you send a friend request to someone, and you aren’t connected to them until they approve your request, and vice versa.

On Twitter, you follow whomever you want, and if they follow you too, then great, if not, no big deal.  That’s why most people are following more people than are following them.

The Opportunity

If Facebook can change the “who” then they have a chance to steal Twitter.  They’ll continue to help people connect with one another, but they can also offer the ability for people to “follow” one another.  They could make, I would think, some minor upgrades, and give people the ability to follow whomever they want.  You would see a limited view, perhaps just the public profile, and you wouldn’t be able to post to their wall or IM them, but you could see who their friends/followers are and get their status updates.  At that point, they are one API away from offering the ability to query Facebook for the people whom you follow on Twitter and automatically follow them on Facebook too.  If this group turns out to be a large percentage, then what reason would you have to return to Twitter?  And, eventually, you might stop following these people on Twitter and start “connecting” with them on Facebook.  This would take the relationship one step further, and one step closer to personal.  Facebook already offers the ability to update your Facebook status and Twitter status simultaneously (as do about a 1000 other services), so the transition would be seamless.

I don’t know the legalities behind all this and if Twitter would be forced to go into Facebook and have a serious, lawyer present, talk, but it seems like it isn’t that far off.  It might change Facebook’s tag line (Facebook helps you connect and share with the people in your life…and not in your life), but wouldn’t it have changed anyway if the Twitter deal had gone through?

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Author: Rob Vanasco

I am a Christ follower, but sometimes not a very good one. I am a husband, and working on getting better. I am a father, sometimes reluctantly. I am an aspiring writer, but have been lazy about pursuing my dream. So, this is me, doing something about it, searching for my real passion; my real dream. I am now in full pursuit of my dream to make a living with words.

3 thoughts on “Can Facebook Steal Twitter?”

  1. I think that it’s good to have two separate systems. Once in which we follow ‘Real-Life’ Friends, and the other where we can follow whomever we choose.

    They each serve a purpose. Do they have to be combined?

  2. I had a vision of multiple streams within Facebook. They could, will, have various streams for your different groups of firends and the another stream just for those people you are following. Make sense!

  3. I don’t want random people following me on Facebook, that is why my profile is set to private. Keep them separate.

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