Tag Archives: Twitter

Facebook scams users to keep up with Twitter in the real time search war.

In a previous post I discussed the reasons why Facebook couldn’t win the real time search war with Twitter. Namely because of the advantage Twitter has with mobile clients. Facebook has come along in leaps and bounds since then, with the release of the Facebook 3.0 app for the iPhone a particularly strong offering. Even my platform of choice, Windows Mobile has a perfectly functional, albeit poor looking Facebook app available.

The one area I didn’t cover in my previous post, was perhaps the most critical factor to Facebook competing with Twitter in the real time search market. Facebook as a platform has since it’s inception, been an inherently closed social network. People need to be part of your network before they can gain access to your information, either by being by being a friend directly, or belonging to your extended network should you have chosen to allow “friends of friends” get access to your information.

Twitter on the other hand, is an open platform by default. Sure users can opt to restrict access to their tweets, but for the most part, this is counter to the workings of Twitter. If people can’t find you by seeing you participate in conversations with others, you don’t exist to them. Which limits your “Twitter experience” considerably.

As a result, Twitter generates considerable amounts of publicly searchable information every second. Whereas Facebook is stuck with it’s data being in silos around each individual that are inaccessible to the general public. In order to make this information available to search engines to provide meaningful results (and more importantly generate revenues from Bing/Google in the process)  it is *vital* for Facebook to change from a closed social networking platform. To a more open one, at least in regards to peoples wall posts (that which provides the best real time data).

This week Facebook offered it’s users what they called a ‘Transition tool’ to manage the transition to the new structure of the privacy settings. The tool itself is illustrated below by a screenshot taken by @beaney.

Facebook Privacy Settings Update

Now what this transition tool offered was the new default options for each setting for Facebook on the left, and a column of radio buttons on the right to allow you to select to keep your old settings if it was different from the new default. Instead of allowing users to select from all the  privacy levels for each  option, they only permitted the default (for the primary options this was the most permissive ‘everyone’ option) or the existing setting. Nothing in between.

Surely Facebook could have offered drop down boxes as with their normal privacy options menu, and simply listed the previously used setting next to each option and allowed the users freedom of choice. But no, this is a deceptive move on Facebooks behalf to scam its users into opening up their data so that Bing and Google can mine it and pay Facebook for the privilege.

Coinciding with this change in privacy settings for Facebook was an announcement not long ago that Facebook and Microsoft had ‘inked a deal’ to index all of Facebook users data. Obviously it is in Facebook’s financial interests to push users into opening up their status updates, but doing so in such a deceptive way will only result in users over-sharing and exposing themselves to risks unknowingly such as having their payoffs cut off when insurers see pictures of them on Facebook ‘smiling’. I expect Facebook’s response to such incidents as being “well the user opted in to up opening their profile” which may be true, but is unscrupulous and not the sort of behavior I would expect from the company.

You can do better Mark Zuckerberg. You evangelise the user experience with Facebook, but you have let your users down with this one.

Twitter is *now* and Facebook is *Last Weekend* (Why Facebook can’t win in real time search)

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.

Why?

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.