With the FriendFace deal I’ve written about before the R&D team from FriendFeed was touted as giving Facebook a leg up in the real time search world against Twitter, and while Friendfeed has some great technology to integrate into Facebook, until we see a fundamental paradigm shift in how people interact with Facebook. The service will always lag behind Twitter in the timeliness of posts, and hence, always be behind the 8-ball when it comes to being a true real time search engine.
In an increasingly connected world, application support on mobile devices is critical to enable people to participate in their social networks on the go. They need to be lightweight and easy to update your status or participate in your ‘stream’ in the spare moments a person has on the bus, between meetings with clients etc. Facebook has focused a lot recently on developing a new version for the iPhone “Facebook 3.0” which purports to be much easier to use and offers a better optimised user experience than the mobile Facebook site which is “underdeveloped” to put it kindly.
Facebook 3.0 moves to address some of the shortcomings that have limited its use on mobile platforms, but the Facebook ‘environment’ does not translate well from the desktop to the mobile screen. The sheer number of features and plug-ins and other services that Facebook offers can not easily be transferred to a mobile device and this will continue to impede adoption of Facebook by mobile users.
Twitter on the other hand, is inherently optimised for the mobile space. Being limited from early in it’s evolution to messages of 140 Characters (Twitter originally had no message size limit, but this changed soon after the service was born) it has by default a natural place on mobiles, essentially a multi-cast version of SMS. This is both a natural extension of behaviour users are already accustomed to and is an ideal fit for the mobile form factor.
Sure Twitter mobile applications have added many bells and whistles over the basic function of sending 140 character messages, applications such as Tweetie on the iPhone and PockeTwit on Windows Mobile (The screenshots of PockeTwit don’t do it justice, it’s a great App) have added media service integration (uploading of photos, GPS integration with mapping services etc) but the core competancy of these applications is the short succinct ‘tweet’ which drives their function.
Facebook cannot compete with this ‘limitation’ without neutering the experience desktop users have with the service. Which is why when it comes to what is happening now Facebook can’t compete, and is limited to being the repository of the photos from the party you had on the weekend when you finally upload them a week later.