Is it about the Facebook/Twitter Arms Race or the AfterWeb?

April 28th, 2009

Yesterday Facebook announced that it was opening up its stream — the feed of members’ status updates and wall posts via a new API for developers.  With the API, developers will now be able to create new programs that mash-up and remix the core data of users (with user permission) making it more useful and portable.  One of the first apps to take advantage of this new API is Seesmic Desktop,  a Twitter client which is adding your Facebook feed through this API.  Because the new Facebook  API is two-way, it would allow developers to build apps which allow for that two-way communication inside the app.

Potentially this puts Facebook side by side with Twitter in all of the desktop and mobile client applications where a lot of the real-time conversation is happening and lets it compete head-to-head with Twitter.

Yet few are talking about the real difference between Facebook and Twitter — like the fact that the services are fundamentally different in how connections are formed.   Facebook requires friending: Twitter doesn’t.  It only requires following. This is a big distinction and a difference in how much can be shared.  Getting Facebook users to share their data with a third party could be a major challenge based on the reaction to the TOS issue a few months back.

Twitter had 9 million users last month, while Facebook has 200 million members.  Yes…Twitter is the media darling of late. It has grown in popularity largely because of the all online services that have sprung up around it to help organize messages, such as TweetDeck, create mini communities around a single theme, such as StockTwits; and track trends about what people have posted.  But is Facebook really reacting to or worried about the popularity of Twitter or are they focused on something else…like what TIME is calling the AfterWeb?  AfterWeb (or after the browser) is about unbundling web-site-based business and allowing developers to turn them into a bunch of discrete services that can be delivered over a variety of devices (from PCs to Smartphones) far more easily than via the website.

I sure hope Facebook is being strategic and looking forward, because they are running some pretty big risks in this latest move because if people get too accustomed to accessing “the stream” off of their web site, the company will lose out on the advertising revenue.  And currently Facebook at least has a revenue model (albeit advertising), Twitter does not.


  1. Cynthia S says:

    According to a Nielsen study more than 60% of those who sign up on Twitter don’t come back the next month. So it’s not sticking. Whereas FB had much higher retnetion.

  2. Scott Hale says:

    I do believe Facebook is scared of Twitter. I agree that they are fundamentally different in the way that they create connections, but Facebook seems to prefer the connection styles on Twitter. Look at their new(ish) news feed – basically just a timeline of auto-updating status posts with the option to comment on the status. I think you hit it dead-on when you mention that Facebook is in trouble if they are not looking ahead to the “AfterWeb” – Facebook is a sit-at-your-computer and look around website whereas Twitter is a streaming (at times asynchronous) conversation that can be carried via web browser, smartphone, desktop app, or SMS messaging.

    Cynthia, the Nielsen study claimed that 60% of users on Twitter did not return to the Twitter website the following month. This was not limited to new users. Third party applications probably had a lot to do with the high figure. After setting up an account, there is very little incentive to return to the actual site due to the proliferation of more effective applications.

    Thanks for the post,

    – Scott Hale