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Facebook adds retweets and continues its Twitterfication

Posted by Danny Whatmough on 18th January 2010

When Facebook made changes to its privacy policy back in December I commented on how I felt this was a sign that the network was attempting to take advantage of some of the success that Twitter had been achieving of late.

Yesterday, Facebook introduced a new feature that essentially allows its users to ‘retweet’ information that has been shared. This doesn’t apply yet to status updates or pictures for example, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see this coming in the future.

This is yet another move in Twitter’s direction, so why is Facebook worried?

  • Twitter for business – Twitter is the opposite to Facebook’s walled garden – it is totally open, anyone whether you are a pigeon, a brand or even a bridge, can join. This is in contrast to Facebook’s previously strict joining rules. Facebook fan pages and groups are the key battleground here as Facebook looks to get in on the ‘business action’
  • Real-time – Twitter’s inclusion in Google and Bing real-time search results will possibly be a defining moment for the company. Facebook will be eager to get in on the real-time bandwagon, but it has real problems with privacy…
  • Privacy and openness – users on Twitter are encouraged to keep their updates public and the vast majority do. Facebook again is polar opposite here with the majority of users traditionally keeping their profiles hidden and viewable only by friends. This opt-in model presents real problem for Facebook

So does Facebook need to be worried? Not yet.

Facebook is still growing and its user figures world wide are substantially more than Twitter (indeed in some areas, Twitter’s growth is slowing quite quickly).

But Facebook is at a junction in its development. It needs to decide whether it continues to cherry pick the best bits from other ‘pretenders to the throne’ or whether it sticks to its guns and innovates and develops with its loyal user base front of mind. And with the attraction of real-time and local-search, choosing the former path might be appealing.

However, I can’t help but think the latter is the best option and that merely trying to dumb down to match Twitter and whoever comes along next will just end up infuriating users and creating a ‘Myspace’ like network where no one is particularly sure what it is and where they are…

Danny Whatmough