We all have seen Twitter changing their public face in the last six months. They inhibit clients by third parties, they have strong rules on how to display tweets – in short, they’re turning from a platform company into a product company. Theories as to why they do so all point in the same direction: they’re gearing up to sell ad space wherever they can.
In an abstract sense, they’re trying to do what Facebook has been doing before them. There’s just one important fact not to be overlooked: Facebook has been at this a while longer; they know more about placing ads into streams. Also, I think that Facebook is the more ruthless company; the company that’s more willing to push the boundaries.
I’ve been arguing for a while that you should not consider Facebook an ethical company. I believe that many companies, at the core, embody personality traits of their founders. Everything that I’ve heard and read about Facebook’s founder leads me to the conclusion that ethical behavior is not very high on his list of personal goals. So, that forms my prejudices about Facebook: don’t think that Facebook behaves ethically sound – to their paying customers, to their users and content producers, to their peers in the marketplace.
In turning Twitter into just another platform of algorithmically put together user streams, Twitter is giving up a lot of potential to be just something that works dangerously similar to Facebook. If there is longposts by special users; if there is stuff that Twitter just interjects into your stream – what is the point that differentiates Twitter from Facebook? Why should one go to that platform as opposed to the richer and much more able provider of news streams – considering that it already has established the larger user base, the better analytics and quite a lot of ties to other media outlets?
I’m afraid that within the next year, Twitter will start to muck around with the stream, too. They’ll no longer just show all Tweets chronologically, but rather they’ll help you see topic that is relevant to you. They already do that by e‑mail, but I am not hopeful that this isn’t something that will cross over to the API as well.
But given the way Facebook behaves, this is, to my way of thinking, dangerous ground. Or in other words: you cant outfacebook Facebook. They’ll just be faster, have the larger infrastructure and are not particularly interested in having such a direct competitor.