Did Twitter Just Get Thrown Under a Bus?
And we thought that Facebook loading up its stream of status updates a few months ago was a sign of its desire to go head-to-head with Twitter. Little did we know.
In this week's edition of my Social Media Insider column, we'll dissect the myriad headlines that Facebook has been pumping out over the last few days, and how they relate to Twitter. (As an added bonus, you'll get an insight into the crackpot fact-finding process that goes into researching my columns. I can't speak for my colleague, David Berkowitz, but this is how things go down at the home office in Westchester.)
So, as you may have read on Monday, Facebook made two moves that are direct assaults on the emergence of Twitter as the current social media darling. (Not that Facebook has fallen out of favor, mind you, but social mediaerati, you know exactly what I mean.) At that point, I thought it was a likely column topic for this week. To recap:
- First, Facebook acquired Friendfeed, which, as I said in one of my other writing venues, effectively puts Facebook atop the social mediasphere, since Friendfeed aggregates almost 60 social media services -- with one particularly glaring exception. (Not Twitter, silly, but MySpace.) That move shows Facebook isn't just interested in maintaining the stream among its users on its site, but is laying groundwork to own the stream. If Facebook is like the Ohio River, think of it as just staking claim to the Mississippi, as well.
- Second, the company unleashed its real-time search function onto the world, allowing people to not only search all of Facebook for certain terms (for fun, the first keyword I searched was Twitter), but also search their own stream of friends, including photos, status updates and so forth over the last 30 days. As some view real-time search as not just a helpful consumer utility but a potential revenue generator for social media, this is big. Twitter's trending topics have quickly become a proxy for what people are talking about online, even though it still has only a small percentage of the users that Facebook does.
But as I pondered writing the column, I kept coming back to one big benefit that Twitter has over Facebook: Twitter requires so little, really, of its users. Follow or don't follow. Tweet or don't tweet. Click on shared links or don't. No tagged photos to sift through. No postings from those groups you wish you'd never joined. No recommendations to add so-called "friends," And, of course, no ads. Bliss.
And then, while searching for something entirely different this morning, I came across the news of Facebook Lite, which Facebook is starting to beta test. (It apparently overshared the email inviting beta-testers, but never mind.) Though details are sketchy (you can see a picture of an alleged screenshot of it here), Facebook Lite looks and sounds lot like Twitter. As Mashable describes it: "From what we can tell, it is almost like a Twitter stream: you can see your most recent status updates and the updates of your friends. There is a left-hand navigation with four main categories: Wall, Info, Friends, and Photos & Videos. It does little more than that."
Yep. That was Twitter just getting thrown under a bus. Don't call an ambulance. Call Google. Tell them it's an emergency.