Every day it seems Facebook wants to be more like Twitter. But Twitter is content to be just itself… for now. Yesterday, Facebook made two announcements, both strikes across the bow of the 140-character phenom. And both made in the typical Facebook way: laid back, casual, innocent looking blog posts.
But make no mistake. These are small updates that reflect a strategic goal of Facebook’s to slow Twitter, and find the next big growth engine.
The first addition is the ability to “tag” friends in your status updates. Yes, just like Twitter, you can type a “@” followed by a person’s name to include them in your update, which according to Tom Occhino from Facebook is “another way to let people know who and what you’re talking about.”
Oddly when I tried the new feature this morning I could not get it to work. Perhaps it’s rolling out to users in waves. Still it seems 6,231 people “like” it so far.
With Facebook’s acquisition of FriendFeed you can be that more Twitter-like features will continue to be added. That Twitter is rumored to be valued around $1.7-$2B making it the fourth largest social networking site (following MySpace and Bebo) is not lost on management. How to tap into the juice?
The second announcement today is called Facebook Lite (lite.facebook.com). But you could also call it Twitter dressed in a blue dress. The new version of the Facebook interface strips away all the advanced features, and instead leaves a simple, stream of activities. We’ve seen this before. Why bother with applications, Farmville, photos and videos when a simple status update will fulfill your morning narcissism?
BusinessWeek wrote that despite these updates, there is no collision course between Facebook and Twitter. Instead he suggests they serve different social purposes:
“Facebook is the private party. Twitter is the public square. This line has been drawn and there’s no reasonable change either site can make to step across it.”
I’m not so sure I agree. Both companies want to add users. More users means more ad dollars. When either Facebook or Twitter’s growth slows, they will look to expand by doing whatever it takes to gain more users (and to increase monetization per user as well). That means doing whatever it takes to cross any line, imaginary or real. You don’t build a $10B company and not have the chutzpah to continue to innovate.
I wonder what Google thinks about all this, standing on the sidelines. Real-time search guys, isn’t this your grapefruit?
(Is it just me or did Google make the font size larger on their search form?)