Update: Discussions with friends have caused me to further refine my thinking around Twitter.
Twitter benefits are:
1) Twitter allows you immerse yourself in the stream of consciousness of other people. That is interesting and useful.
2) Commercially, I think Twitter could enable companies to see and track that flow, understand what is going on and why, learn from what is happening and enable them to embed themselves better in the stream of consciousness. If they manage that, then this is potentially very valuable.
Twitter better than Facebook because:
1) It concentrates just on the flow and does away with everything else
2) I can access everyone, not just my ‘friends’
3) Most importantly, there are no privacy issues here. Twitter is all public. You have no privacy rights in terms of what you you publish. Contrast this with Facebook which is ‘private’. Remember the Beacon debacle? Twitter is unlikely to have that kind of problem.
Facebook has now updated their homepage. When you log in, it looks very much like Twitter. It essentially is a live stream of what your friends are up to. This is very good and useful. It fills a different needs from what Twitter does. Facebook is your news stream of what some of your friends are up to. Twitter is stream of consciousness of the general public. Big difference. Nonetheless, Facebook just became useful to me for the first time since I started using it. Love the re-design!
This is getting better by the day. Facebook just announced that they are enabling users to open up their status updates.
I think that Twitter is the better Facebook. It is like a thin version of it that only focuses on the essence and does away with everything unnecessary. But it does the essence better than Facebook.
The essence of Facebook is that enables people to connect and communicate with each other in a group format. I can see what other people that I am connected to are doing. But I can’t see what other people are doing. I am only privy to discussions of people that I know. And even most of that is hidden.
Twitter by comparison enables me to listen to what people that I am interested in have to say. I can also talk back to people who care about what I might have to say. In addition, I can scan what everybody in general is talking about. And Twitter focuses them to keep it short and brief. So there is actually little noise here. Beyond this, there is no functionality. Twitter has discarded the add-ons and all the bulk. This functionality is not INSIDE Twitter, it is OUTSIDE and linked by Tiny URLs. Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant.
What this means is that Twitter has taken the core of Facebook, the ‘social flow of communication’, and perfected it. It has gotten rid of everything else. There is just the core. And it is great.
My guess is that this core is actually where the value of both Facebook and Twitter lies. The value is in the flow of communication between participants. The commercial value probably lies in observing and learning from that flow as well as being able to respond to it in a meaningful way. Twitter’s core works better (for me) than Facebook’s, this might mean that Twitter might end up being far more useful and valuable than Facebook. Facebook knows this. This is why they tried to buy Twitter for $500m.
But why would you sell when you are in that kind of position?