There has been a lot of buzz recently about Twitter. Just a few months ago, it was a techie network that was difficult to explain to an existing user, let alone anyone that had never heard of it. Not, it’s a mainstream phenomenon that everyone is talking about. This came to head with all the ridiculous Ashton vs. CNN race to a million users (Ashton won), and Oprah’s first tweet. The explosive growth is a result of reaching a critical mass of users, getting celebrities started, and having a wide range of support tools (e.g. TweetDeck, Nambu).
As a result of this growth, Facebook has been reacting, or possibly over-reacting, as evidenced with their recent redesign. The controversial redesign is trying to focus more on status updates, and copied a lot of Twitter (and FriendFeed) features. Given the explosive growth, Facebook is certainly justified in their fears.
Facebook is worried about the Lead Users, the early adopters. Among my tech friends, we all are spending more time interacting with Twitter than we are with Facebook. I do this is mainly because it’s much easier to actually interact with Twitter (with the tools I referenced earlier, my favorite is Nambu). And on top of that, I’ve found that Twitter is more useful and relevant for what I need.
Chasing the Wrong Problem
Twitter is winning the status update wars. But that’s ok. Facebook is caught up in this because it thought that status messages were such an important part to it’s value proposition, right from it’s initial conception, inspired partly by AIM status messages. (On a side note, other sites need to get over the status update issue and stop trying to force users to update their status, yes I’m talking to you Plaxo and LinkedIn).
Facebook = Identity
Facebook right now is so much more than a fancy way to update your status message. It’s your IDENTITY. Facebook is trying to win back status messages and real time conversation. Instead, it should just realize it’s about identity, and focus on that. Facebook Connect is important, and if they neglect that, it won’t become what I hope it becomes.
Twitter = Communication
Twitter is leading in real time communication. Ironically, it’s also going back into the era of random user names that I was hoping Facebook has ended. That’s not as bad as it once was because there are more ways to map the random names to names that make sense to you, i.e. real names. But the implication of Twitter’s usernames is that it makes it much less likely to become a standard login protocol (as TechCrunch is implying).
Facebook’s use of real names and validation makes it well suited for a global identify management, and Twitter’s open standards make it well suited for real time public conversation. I don’t mind some overlap, as long as they each don’t lose focus on what makes them valuable.