Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Twitter, meet Facebook

A short while ago, I blogged about the overwhelming and, in my opinion, unjustified hype about Facebook. My opinion still remains the same: Facebook is still way too much of a closed network to take advantage of many of the obviously better properties of Web 2.0. It does have one effective by product, however: all that hype is driving critical mass. That means more people will use Facebook than other, more elegant solutions. It also means they don't have to embrace open standards: they can command a large enough audience to force other sites to create Facebook "applications" and include them in their buried infrastructure, as that's where the eyeballs are.

Take status updates, for example. Twitter seems to be waning in popularity, as Facebook is waxing. Sure, Facebook status updates are there, but they lack the sheer usability of Twitter. Can I get SMS updates of my friends' status messages? Who knows: on Facebook, you might be able to, but it's infinitely harder than Twitter. Still, that's where the eyeballs are. Do I have to update both??

Maybe not. Like Twitter, I can update my status in Facebook through SMS, albeit a bit kludgier. In a typical Facebook move, you can get an RSS feed of your status updates, though locating it takes at least 3 levels deep. With the addition of a free service called Twitterfeed and some pretty convoluted configuration, you can theoretically have your Facebook status periodically update your Twittering.

This type of hack is reminiscent of other similar techniques employed in the past by frustrated users of closed network systems, chafing at the bit. Remember Prodigy? AOL? CompuServe? The one thing we have learned is that, to survive and thrive, no community can be an island. Sure, Facebook is the belle of the moment, but they had better sell soon, before the rising critical mass deserts them for the next big thing. The most frustrating part is that they should know this: MySpace was so closed network that even the fickle teens cast it aside for Facebook, once they opened membership.

So, I'll keep using Facebook, as that's where the people are, while finding every crack I can to make it open and hope for the rise of Plaxo's Pulse. Enjoy this Facebook hack, hopefully the first of many.

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