Friday, August 14, 2009

Facebook To Become Twitter

A number of high profile campaigns, including the recent Tory Election App, have made clever use of Facebook Status Updates by asking supporters to 'donate' them to the cause. By joining the campaign in question or installing their application, users would allow the campaign to insert its own message into their Status Update. However, it seems now that this loophole in Facebook's usage policy which allows users effectively donate or sell their status updates to brands, will be shut down.

The proposed changes to Facebook's Statement of Rights and Responsibilities, will ban users from any sort of commercial gain through their status updates or profiles. This will see the banning of a number of pyramid schemes that have started up, denial of service attacks that have become more common, and ultimately all users will now be made directly responsible for the content that is published through their profile.

This will be a major differentiator between Facebook and Twitter, who allow users to use their account in basically anyway they like. Already there are a number of third-party applications that exist to allow users to make money from their Tweets. But this change in Facebook's Statement of Rights and Responsibilities probably isn't as big a change as it actually seems. Two really interesting things have happened with Facebook in the last couple of weeks; first there was Facebook's acquisition of FriendFeed and the launch of its beefed up search function, and, secondly there have also been a number of reports of users being sent invitations to beta test Facebook's new 'Lite' service, which appears to be a direct stab to Twitter.
(the URL - - already pops up in Google but redirects back to regular Facebook)

Facebook released a statement saying "We are currently testing a simplified alternative to that loads a specific set of features quickly and efficiently similar to the Facebook experience you get on your mobile phones. Facebook 'Lite' is a fast-loading, simplified version of Facebook that enables people to make comments, accept Friend requests, write on people's Walls, and look at photos and Status updates."

A screengrab of Facebook 'Lite' that is doing the rounds shows huge similarities with Twitter, with a stream down the centre and options to post pictures or videos on the right. Beyond this there is also one prominent theme coming through in Facebook 'Lite' - it will be a completely real-time application. This will demonstrate yet another subtle change made by Facebook to its service, to move it more towards a fully real-time service, which is exactly what Twitter currently represents. The most notable changes were those made to the Facebook homepage in March. The new hybrid page works almost exactly like a cross between Twitter and FriendFeed.

Following the March changes, Facebook also opened up to allow third party developers to create applications directly utilising its news feed, which is exactly what has helped drive Twitter growth with clients like Tweetdeck. Then June saw further changes with users being granted full control over their privacy options. This has allowed Facebook Status Updates to be broadcast out of Facebook and into the larger web, again directly emulating Twitter. Finally we have this weeks new change to Facebook - the new search function. This allows users to now search Facebook exactly as do with Twitter, being able to view trending topics as they happen.

So what does all of this mean? Well, for one it strengthens Facebook's position as being the progressive and dynamic Social Media service. Twitter on the other hand may still be struggling to generate a basic revenue model. This is just a basic overview though, in reality all these changes may do little more then add additional levels of usage to Facebook that many users will simply fail to uptake. Twitter offers a service that is unique in its simplicity and range. Twitter should not try to become Facebook, and, similarly, Facebook shouldn't try to become Twitter. In my opinion Facebook would be better served trying to improve its current offering, speed up its overall service, and allow developers/marketers more freedom to enhance their use of Facebook.

No comments: