Facebook goes realtime to take on Twitter

By March 5, 2009 8 Comments

As you have most probably read by now Facebook announced a bunch of changes to their site yesterday.  The most significant of these for me were two moves which copy Twitter.  Firstly updates will now be near to realtime (previously they took around 10mins to show up in people’s feeds) and secondly they have added the ability to follow people without them confirming you as friends.

I say credit to Facebook for this.  When they couldn’t agree a deal to acquire Twitter they didn’t give up on the idea, but instead chose to build it themselves.  They did it quite quickly too.

As David Recordon points out on O’Reilly Facebook has been very innovative, so perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised:

To their credit, they’ve been one of the most innovative social networks over the past two years, pushing the boundaries of what’s been thought of as possible with features like social tagging in photos, Newsfeed, Platform, Beacon, integrated chat and Connect.

Despite this innovation and its massive popularity (175m members now) it still has a bad rep.  I think that in large part stems from it’s closed, proprietary nature.

As Alan Patrick points out in Facebook blinks, copies Twitter, still gets it wrong if they remain closed they will struggle to compete with Twitter which benefits from a whole ecosystem of innovation.  The most obvious manifestation of which is in the client wars, but I think it could be even more important when it comes to realtime search.

On which note Recordon’s comments on FB’s steps towards opening up and prediction that by the end of the year it will become the most open socnet are very interesting:

Two weeks ago this [FB’s lack of participation in all things open] changed. Facebook joined the board of the OpenID Foundation, released two-way APIs around status, notes, pictures and videos, hosted a user experience summit focused on OpenID and released a blog commenting widget powered by Connect. Since then they’ve also talked about how they wish to support the Activity Streams project and have reiterated their commitment to the sort openness that we’ve been promoting as key pieces of the social web.

My prediction is that by the end of the year Facebook will become the most open social network on the social web. I believe that not only have they now found business value in doing so, but also truly believe that the next phase of their mission, “to give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected” requires that they do so.

I hope he is right.

One thing is for sure though, which is that this market continues to develop at a blistering pace.