You can’t outfacebook Facebook.

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. 

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