Facebook’s latest incarnation, revealed at F8 last night, brings it into direct head to head (or should that be face to face?) competition with two interesting innovators:
- Facebook’s move to socialise media consumption is a huge direct threat to Apple’s content business, and an indirect threat to the hardware business that Apple’s content business enhances
- Facebook’s separation of status updates into Meaningful and Ephemeral, combined with other changes, make it more like Twitter.
There is more than one story to be told about Facebook’s relationship with Apple. There are ways in which Apple and Facebook are symbiotic. But make no mistake, they also compete for my attention and my spend. Yours too.
I think Facebook holds a better hand, because, together with its partners, it is so strongly placed to do utterly amazing things with content discovery by making use of social graph inference. (And integrated billing can’t be a million miles away either.) But Apple is clever, commercial and creative. This is one story that will run and run. I don’t know how it will end but it will be worth watching. As Sheryl Crow says: “sit back, enjoy the show”.
Twitter is another matter. Facebook has been moving, amboeba-like, to embrace Twitter’s functionality, while still being Facebook and extending into new areas (e.g. TimeLine’s LifeBook). Facebook’s introduction of uni-directional subscription based communications is an important element of this creep, as is the UI change which make it easier to control publication privacy in a granular way, per post. Both of these are pre-F8. The F8 “icing on the stake” (the one pointing at Twitter’s heart) is the separation of status updates into small more trivial and ephemeral updates, which go into your ticker display, and more important stuff, which makes it into your timeline and your friends newsfeeds. (I think. I don’t have the new interface yet.)
There are important other reasons why Facebook has gone this route besides wanting to become more like Twitter. One reason is to do with app and content discovery. Another is to do with a perfectly self-interested need to try to hang on to or even increase the interest value of the newsfeed – Facebook is hoping people will self-triage their posts and the fluffy ephemeral flow will go into ticker.
Facebook isn’t just Twitter. But it increasingly has a Twitter-like side. The encroachment on Twitter is real. Put it this way. With Facebook, you get the free knife set! Why would you buy the knife set on its own? There are reasons, of course, why you would. I’m not sure they will be enough of them.
What I really want to know, in order to try to call this one, is what the current overlap is between Facebook and Twitter user bases. Anyone got some guesses they want to share?