Facebook vs. Twitter - Part 1: The battleground


Facebook and Twitter are probably the two hottest Web 2.0 services available. A lot of us are familiar with both of them, but it's hard to predict which has greatest potential in the long run to take on the title of the main social networking service. The competition is on, but it's also obvious the race is long, even infinite. The World Wide Web runs on a time of its own, and we have seen major players vanish and marginal players with great ideas take the lead in years, if not months. Because I like to speculate on things like that, I bring you the first part of my thoughts on Facebook vs. Twitter.

For now, I won't go into details, but we'll rather check out different categories and variables that represent the already made success and future potentials for both giants. The list of the comparisons is based on my opinion as a web developer, web 2.0 user and social media strategist, in no specific order. Later posts will go into specific fields and analyze how things are turning out.

The size

Today, Facebook is a few times bigger than Twitter, with 350 million registered users vs. Twitter's 50 million. The following diagram is already a bit old, but still gives an interesting overview on the comparison between the two giants. We must admit Facebook has been around longer, but that doesn't change the fact it's way up ahead in this category. More users mean more possibilities and greater potential. Facebook 1.

The revenue

Facebook already went cash flow positive, while Twitter is still thinking about its revenue model. This could turn out to be one of the crucial stages in Twitter's development, where bad decisions could change everything. Besides, it's a no brainer that making money is good, in our case probably even the main goal for everybody. Facebook 2.

The karma

Facebook’s karma is getting worse and worse. Ever since the infamous Facebook beginnings and stories of the stolen idea, issues concerning privacy and other weird decisions have been a pain in Facebook's behind. On the other hand, Twitter with its involvement on the Iranian elections and now with live reporting on Haiti earthquake, seems like the good boy of Web 2.0. Twitter 1.

The service

Facebook was built around a ton of services, such as events, photos, fan pages, etc. On the other hand, Twitter was build around one service, analog to Facebook’s status, but so much different in content. The so called microblog. External services, such as Twitpic also exist, where one photo becomes richer than the whole album with 100 photos on Facebook. Besides, we have to admit Facebook is becoming a little spam machine and we all know less is more, so this one goes to Twitter. Twitter 2.

The openness

Facebook’s API is focused on building applications inside the portal, where Twitter’s API is focused on having different clients to access Twitter. But concerning the time an average user stays on Facebook to play all the quizes and games, looks like this is an effective approach. Farmville alone, one of the most popular games on Facebook, is bigger than Twitter. Besides, looks like different Facebook clients are also more actual and available than before. Facebook 3.

The relationships 

Facebook and Twitter have two different approaches on relationships. On Facebook, both people have to "confirm" each other to become friends. This is called symmetric friendship, which ends with 5.000th friend on Facebook. On the other hand, Twitter has asymmetric friendships, which allows people (and celebrities) to have millions of followers. This makes it more flexible and open and we can only wait for Facebook to do the same. Twitter 3.

The publicity

The celebrity base made Twitter big, and many popular microbloggers intentionally and unintentionally help to promote Twitter. Oprah did her first tweet live on her show and got immediately corrected by Shaq. This type of publicity is something Facebook just can't manage with current architecture. Here is the list of the most followed people on Twitter which gives it a lead over Facebook, because they are far more active and appealing than Facebook fan pages, managed by PR companies. Twitter 4.

The technical platform

If you had to take an estimate, it would be clear that Facebook’s platform and service is much more complicated from the technical point of view. Besides, Facebook has much more users who are more active, but still remains more stable and is online more often. Twitter has a problem with being over capacity often. Is this a problem with the core software architecture or just with the physical architecture and number of servers? Facebook 4.

The influence

2009 was the year of the Twitter, and Twitter was the top word of 2009. Ashton Kutcher kicked CNN's ass to become the first account to have a million followers on Twitter. This clearly show the shift of broadcasting information from mainstream media to opinion leaders. Facebook is for following people you actually know, Twitter is for following people you would like to know. On Facebook you are trapped inside your social circle, while on Twitter you are free to go and look anywhere. Real time search is more actual than ever and Twitter is faster with delivering news than the mainstream media. Even though Facebook groups have some activism influence, Twitter is becoming a platform rather than a service and in this surely means future. Twitter 5.


I think these 9 facts should cover the initial battleground between Facebook and Twitter. For now, I would go more towards Twitter, who also won this faceoff 5 points to 4. Leaving aside this rough analysis, history usually likes to prove that ideas that are the most simple and the most elementary, usually are the best and most history changing, and Google is direct proof of that. You can't go more minimalistic than Twitter, and collaboration of millions of users could mean a whole lot of information and potential. This gives Twitter an opportunity to go beyond Web 2.0, something even Google could be afraid of. On the other hand, Twitter is probably not that useful and fun for non-heavy Web 2.0 users, because it doesn't offer so many things to do. We probably shouldn't underestimate people who are bored online.

This competition will be fun and interesting and I really am curious what will happen. We will see soon, probably even too soon, but it's safe to say the ordinary web user will benefit from this battle anyways.

Check out the complete Facebook vs. Twitter series.

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written 7.2.2010 11:50 CET on chronolog
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