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Revenge is a dish best served via status updates.
When you look in the rearview mirror, you realize the greed and comparative savvy of the leadership of uber-successful online startups has ramifications on us all.
What if Myspace hadn’t sold to Fox? What if Yahoo had sold to Microsoft? What if Google hadn’t purchased YouTube? In each instance, the online world would be different today.
The same is true with the burgeoning fight between Facebook and Twitter. As you may remember, Facebook tried to purchase the plucky, 140-character interloper a while back for a reported $500 million. Not bad to be sure, but far less than YouTube’s $1.65 billion, or MySpace’s $580 million (in 2005 dollars). Regardless of the soundness of their perceived self-worth, Twitter rejected Facebook like a cheerleader asked to dance by the marching band tuba player.
So, like any spurned suitor, Facebook vowed revenge. Whether they actually said “I will crush you” in a thick Russian accent is immaterial. Their subsequent actions speak plenty loud.
There are three recent Facebook developments that should have Twitter sweating like Dom Deluise in a full-length mink:
1. Facebook as Messaging Hub
Using third party tools like Tweet Deck and Seesmic Desktop (both excellent, by the way), you’ve been able to handily update your Facebook status from Twitter for a while now. But while Twitter does status updates and nothing more, Facebook does status updates plus an entire eco-system of applications, content, etc. Thus, having Twitter being the conduit by which people announced the details of their current circumstance must have been highly irksome to Facebook.
Now, fan pages (no personal usage yet) are able to automatically update their Twitter status from Facebook. This may not be an ideal approach for all companies and organizations, but it certainly can create some efficiencies for time-starved social media managers – especially for small and mid-sized players.
A key difference between Facebook and Twitter status updates of course is that Facebook doesn’t have a character limit for the most part. And, they don’t have a character counter, either. So, in an insidious move, if you create a Facebook status message that exceeds Twitter’s 140 characters, it automatically truncates and adds a link back to Facebook. Plus, the tweets are branded as coming from Facebook (per Twitter’s API).
2. Facebook as Name Dropper
The real genius of Twitter has always been the ability to name check friends and potential friends, knowing that they would most likely see your note in their “replies” or by doing searches for their Twitter handle. It’s like an extremely complex, asynchronous collective of CB Radio afficianados.
But now Facebook wants in on that action, too. They recently began facilitating the inclusion of your friends’ names, organization names, company names, etc. in Facebook status updates. The functional mechanism for this is quite nifty, as you don’t have to remember your friends’ handles (increasingly a problem on Twitter). You just have to type @ and the first couple letters of your friends’ name or the business name, and Facebook presents matches from your list of friends and pages of which you’re a fan. Slick.
When you include your friends’ names or brand names in your status updates, they are alerted to that fact via email, or through other means, depending upon how they have their Facebook communication protocols set. This is going to make Facebook a LOT more social.
I believe this will break down one of the last cultural differences between Twitter and Facebook in that people “follow” many people (thousands in my case) on Twitter whom they don’t really know at all, but most folks restrict Facebook friends to people they actually know (or used to know). That’s going to change, and name drops in status messaging (hopefully in comments soon, too) will power the transformation.
3. Lo-Cal Facebook
The recently released Facebook Lite is ostensibly targeted at developing countries where broadband access is limited. But for many folks (including me) Facebook Lite may just be the preferred version of Facebook, regardless of connection speed.
Facebook Lite is basically Twitter, with some notifications of birthdays and events. In fact, having birthdays and events at the top of the page, rather than stashed in the bottom right corner, is in itself a big advantage. (My friend Joe Manna actually created a “Move Facebook events to the top” group about this issue).
Like Coke Zero, this lite version strips Facebook down to its essential elements, leaving out the crap that just gets in the way. No snowbowl fights. No applications. No quizzes. No nonsense.
Now, if you’re a company that’s looking to activate your customers using a Facebook application, widespread adoption of Lite could be an issue for your usage. But for Twitter, widespread adoption of Lite could be bad news indeed, as it emulates Twitter’s ease-of-use, while tapping into a much larger global user base.
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Do I think Twitter is going out of business? (if you’ve never generated any revenue, are you actually “in business”?) No, I don’t. But, the Twitter community has changed dramatically as it has grown, making it less special, less interesting, and more overrun with get-rich-quick ridiculousness. Combined with Facebook’s all-too-serious moves to emulate the best of Twitter, I’m not sure I’d want to build a social media program that’s Twitter-centric.
But maybe it’s just me. What do you think? Is it curtains for Twitter?