Facebook vs. Twitter, Part 3: The phase of unification


I started writing about Facebook and Twitter because I saw these two services as the most impressive players of the social age. I received a lot of comments about the two of them not being comparable, which I disagree. They are the biggest global Web 2.0 platforms (LinkedIn successfully went public and has a lot of users, but it's hardly a platform) and two of the ten most visited websites in the world. They are social trend-setters, both super advanced on technical and conceptual levels. They are a lot, but with the latest sets of patches, they are also becoming a lot alike.

Originally, Facebook wanted to be a social network. On the other hand, Twitter wanted to be a news network. But seeing what's happening these days, we can ask ourselves: is it rather the other way around? Indeed, Facebook and Twitter are finally entering the phase of unification. Let's begin.

Two way integration

Twitter now officially supports posting to Facebook, while Facebook now officially supports posting to Twitter (for now, Pages only). Until recently, you had to use other services or install apps to fully connect both accounts, but these days, direct integration it's pretty much trivial. The wall between the two giants is obviously coming down. And they both noticed the need to recognize each other to proceed.

Facebook adds following

The symmetric relationships (friends) on Facebook made it what it is - a social network for keeping in touch with the people you know. The same goes for Twitter, the asymmetric relationships (followers) made it what it is - a news network where you can follow people you are interested in. This fact was one of the biggest differentiator between the two social services.

Facebook soon noticed they will have to somehow go beyond that, for the sake of enabling more accessible information to the masses and enabling unprotected, crawlable real-time data without privacy. They've started with Pages, intended for brands, which users can like and follow. But recently, like I predicted more than a year ago, Facebook introduced subscriptions for personal profiles, where you can follow people without the need for them to confirm you back, and they can post public updates. What an interesting turn of events.

Facebook adds a real-time stream

Facebook put a lot of effort into developing the EdgeRank, which recognizes the level of connection between two people. The previous version of Facebook had Hot and Fresh streams, the first one being based on the amount of activity and EdgeRank vicinity, and the other one on recent activity. Today, the main stream is a mixture of both, while a new feature was introduced. The so-called Ticker in the right sidebar, showing real-time activity from all your friends. Your own little Twitter inside Facebook, which they plan to evolve even further, adding automatic updates.

Twitter starts to close, adds multimedia

Traditionally, the Twitter app ecosystem was built around (outside) Twitter, while Facebook's app ecosystem was built inside Facebook. But Twitter's policy is changing. They've already acquired one of the biggest Twitter clients TweetDeck, and said they will prevent new Twitter clients from being developed. They've also added a multimedia library to each profile (feeding also from external services) and enabled an internal service for sharing photos. Bad news and a stab in the back for Twitpics, Yfrogs and such. Smells like Facebook.

Twitter adds activity streams

Social networks are all about profiles, streams and interaction. Twitter used to be plain, providing only simple profiles, basic tweets stream, replies and retweets. But the newest addition also includes real-time activity streams, where all retweets, replies and favorites are gathered in one place. I haven't gotten it yet, but people are saying Favorites are the new (Facebook) likes. Twitter is becoming very much a social network, trying to boost up it's social graph.


There are even more cases like this, but these are the most significant. I hope this trend won't continue much further. It was the differences between Facebook and Twitter made each one interesting and useful in it's own way, but I guess things like this are inevitable. Like operating systems or browsers, competitors are constantly copying each other's features and solutions, which actually proves mutual recognition. Why would social services be any different? It seems Twitter and Facebook are finally mature enough to enter the phase of unification.

Check out the complete Facebook vs. Twitter series.

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written 13.10.2011 9:22 CET on chronolog
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