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South by Southwest, Facebook, and Twitter
Posted by Drew at 2009-03-23 1:40:57 PM (0 comments) | Permalink
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2 clicks; posted to Main » on 23 Mar 2009 at 1:40 PM (10 years ago)   |   Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»

I was at South by Southwest (SXSW) last week in Austin. Everybody at SXSW loves the Twitter. I was asked what Fark's Twitter initiatives were, but the truth is, we haven't really fleshed that one out yet. Part of the reason is that Twitter is built to push messages out to your followers, the same way we put my blog posts to the main page of Fark (or for that matter anything else on the main page of Fark). But the other part of the reason is we just don't have the resources to be early adopters. For example, this Facebook Connect thing seems like it might be an okay idea, but it's too early to tell. We'll let other people figure it out. As Internet rabblerouser Joe Peacock already noted, until someone actually does work out a strategy, the concept of "Twitter initiatives" is doomed to become another one of those corporate buzzword things that eventually becomes a mockery of itself.

Speaking of Twitter initiatives, Facebook did a major redesign recently and the thing looks like Twitter now. Far be it from me to criticize other people's site redesigns (my official stance with any redesign is "you'll get over it"), but it seems strange to me that a site with 175 million users is so scared of a site with 6 million that it destroys what made Facebook unique to become an imperfect copy of Twitter.

Twitter content is actively updated. You say to yourself "I haven't told everyone what kind of cream cheese I ate on my bagel today", and you update your Twitter status so everyone knows. Facebook content on the other hand is secondary activity created when you try to do something like look up old friends, contact people, friend them, confirm party attendance, zombie bite them, whatever (with the exception of status updates, but that's only one piece of the functionality). Facebook content for the most part consists of secondary information about what you're doing on Facebook. Its the ripples in the pool as you move around. Twitter content IS what you're doing. Twitter is the actual swimming - you have to take the strokes. This distinction is important because intentional content creation has to be sustained. Secondary content creation is a side affect and just happens.

You may have noticed that the vast majority of people don't have anything interesting to say. They may eventually get Twitter accounts and they may update but the content sucks and no one cares. Far more people are going to be doing what they're doing on Facebook for far longer -- assuming (and this is the important bit) that Facebook doesn't fark up and forget what the hell people were on Facebook to do in the first place... Whoops, too late.

I don't think Facebook is in any danger from Twitter in the first place. It's probably not a bad thing that they're not resting on their successes, because something at some point is absolutely going to knock Facebook out of their number-one-hangout-spot-on-the-Internet slot. It seems to happen on a five year cycle. Before Facebook it was Myspace, before that it was AOL, Compuserve, Usenet, etc. If someone told you ten years ago that, not only would AOL NOT be the top hangout spot on the Internet but that it would have faded into relative obscurity, you wouldn't have believed it. I don't know what's coming after Facebook, but something inevitably will. However, it's not going to be Twitter. Unless Facebook inadvertently hands the crown to Twitter.

In short, always bet on people being lazy. Eventually, people will be too lazy to continue to update 140 word statuses over a period of years. Yes it's unimaginable right now, but AOL thought the same thing at one point.

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