Business Software

Facebook Has a Bad Case of the Twitters. Is There a Cure?

No matter how hard it tries, Facebook will never be a better Twitter than Twitter. While the two are both social networks, they are very different in what they are used for. One is for news, the other is for sharing, it's just that simple.

By trying to turn itself into a Twitter-like information stream, Facebook risks losing its focus on friends sharing information with friends. That is what I and millions of others love about Facebook and is a big part of why users don't like the ongoing user interface changes we've had to endure.

As a comparison, Twitter is like a newswire service, while Facebook is like friends gathering down at Starbucks to chat about what interests them. Put another way, Facebook is conversational, while Twitter is a public address system. Each has its place, but trying to combine them is risky.

Twitter, notably, is not trying to become Facebook. What Twitter offers is simple enough that the world may not really need more than one of them, another reason for Facebook to stay away. There is also the problem of Twitter not being such a dependable news service.

A post by Alex Iskold is what helped me understand this. Alex took some heat from his own readers, as I likely will from mine, but his thesis is sound and resonates with my own experience.

To summarize, Alex says Facebook was created as a means for friends to connect with one another and has grown in that functionality. Twitter succeeded as a way for people to post news and point people to resources. In trying to become more Twitter-like by adding streams, Facebook risks its core business.

Sure, the two services overlap. Groups of friends do share on Twitter, but the service makes even more sense as a tool for reaching people you do not actually know. Just because someone is following you, does not mean you have to follow him or her.

There is a reason why celebrities like Twitter. It allows them to reach fans with little expectation they will actually interact with them. Facebook, meanwhile, demands interaction.

Twitter's length restriction, doubtless part of its genius, also makes it better suited for announcements than conversation.

Facebook, by comparison, is a two-way street.

I have had long discussions on Facebook that eventually involved perhaps a dozen people, each of whom could easily read all the others' sometimes lengthy comments. Maybe there is a way to do this on Twitter, but I have not found it.

Maybe Facebook will succeed in creating a service that serves such different purposes, but one is almost certain to dominate the other. The way things are going, it is likely to be Twitter-like streams rather than conversation that becomes Facebook's new heart.

If Facebook loses its focus, then something else can become the new Facebook. A rejuvenated MySpace could retake Facebook's lead. Alternatively, Microsoft, AOL, or someone else could develop whatever Facebook might evolve into if not for a bad case of Twitter envy.

My hope is Facebook will change course and strive to become a better Facebook rather than a second-rate Twitter.

Facebook, however, operates with such arrogance that it is hard to imagine the company changing its course just to please its customers.

If someone wants to do a better Facebook than Facebook, I would be interested in signing up.

Guess which service David Coursey prefers? Still, he does tweet and can be reached using the form at www.coursey.com/contact.

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