FFS! Even Facebook Don’t Get Twitter

Twitter: It's just like a phone

TechCrunch have reported on an announcement by Facebook that it will be making a series of changes to the way in which it presents & mixes content, including an increase in the speed at which the status updates are, well, updated. As TechCrunch report:

Facebook is…speeding up the updates that populate the news feeds on everyone’s personal page. Before, these would be updated every 10 minutes or so. Facebook’s introduction of real-time updates and a one-sided follow system mimics Twitter’s functionality.

They then quote Mark Zuckerberg as saying, with regards to the activity stream on prfile pages:

The stream is what is happening. We think it is as core as the graph. The graph is the connections, the stream is what is happening.

Translated from (Silicon) Valley-speak, this means “No-one believes our company is worth $15 billion anymore, Twitter said no and we’re a little nervous”. Unfortunately I think that this response (or at least parts of it) is the wrong one to these problems. Certainly the reasoning that seems to sit behind it is flawed. Because if their response to Twitter is to try to make their status updates more like Twitter then they’re completely missing the point (AdAge suggest that other changes, which I have a less of a problem with, make the site more like MySpace).

Only yesterday I gave an internal presentation on blogging and, in a section on Twitter, posed the (rhetorical question):

Twitter? It’s just like Facebook status updates right?

To which the answer is, of course, a resounding no! Twitter is not ‘like’ anything other than Twitter. And that’s because Twitter is not really anything at all – it’s just a communications tool. For some people it works best as a broadcast mechanism. For some, it acts like a conference call system, but where anyone can join in. For some it’s an open instant messenger. For others, it’s like nothing I’ve described. And for many people, it’s all and none of these, all at the same time.

Trying to make Facebook updates like Twitter completely misses the point (and will only encourage those who, in my opinion, misunderstand the difference between Facebook updates and tweets and have their tweets set to appear as their Facebook updates). Trying to make Facebook more like Twitter is like trying to make a candle into a phone – they’re totally different things, serving different purposes.

Whilst I won’t deny that becoming more active on Twitter has reduced the time I spend on Facebook, trying to make the latter more like the former won’t change that: it’s not that Twitter does something that Facebook used to do, it’s just that there are only so many hours in the day. In fact I worry that Facebook, which I still like & use a lot, won’t draw people back from Twitter but will alienate its current user base.

Let’s not forget that despite all the hype Facebook still has an audience that dawrfs that of Twitter. And it might just be that many of those users aren’t using Twitter because they don’t like it/understand it/see a need for it. I was only thinking this morning how I’m now using Facebook for much more personal reasons, due to the fact that it’s so much more controlled – I’ve therefore started rejecting friend requests from people I don’t actually ‘know’, and plan to cull my current list. Twitter is where I can interact with these people, Facebook I’ll keep to myself.

One thing about Facebook that can’t be denied is that they learn from their mistakes, as was shown after the recent T&C kerfuffle. Although I haven’t had a chance to really get to grips with the new Facebook yet, it feels like a mistake to me and one that I hope they’re rectify. Until they do, let’s check out someone who does ‘get’ Twitter – Jon Stewart.

Apologies for the badly formatted video player above: Comedy Central have very little sense of humour about putting their content on YouTube – they don’t mind people using embeddable players, so long as they’re theirs. Talk about not ‘getting’ social media – I hope they don’t object to the make of TV I watch The Daily Show on!

Phone-box image by malias on flickr, car sticker image by brood_wich on flickr


  1. Spot on Ciaran, its amazing how C.E.O.s flock and change business models to mimick “the next hottest trend”. Focusing on improving their products and services and listening to their users should be far higher priority than chasing others and imitating.I suppose imitation is the most sincere form of flattery?

    Not sure i agree 100% on the FB time split split though, I find myself spending far less time on LinkedIn as i keep the proffessional contacts on Linkedin and Twitter and mates on FB, I dont feel i can add business contacts to FB as i feel like a stalker!

    How many people do you think do that?

  2. A little unrelated, but I have to agree with you about culling Facebook ‘friends’. I removed about 150 people recently: they were mostly all on ‘limited profile’ to begin with, so they couldn’t see much of me, but I was tired of the Photos, Groups etc pages being full of people I didn’t know. I’m sure Mary Smith’s Christmas with her kids in Saskatchewan was lovely, but you’ll excuse me for not caring.

    Granted, I still have far too many contacts on there, but I have somewhat of a reason to ‘know’ them.

  3. Nice post, I can’t help thinking that facebook is kind of missing the point by trying to imitate these other sites/services when, as you say, it dwarves them in terms of users. I think facebook should make much more of the fact that, for example, they have all your friends phone numbers which are constantly up to date. Since facebook tends to be more about actual friendships than twitter does they should make more of that, rather than trying to be like twitter.

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