There’s a lot of talk of whether Facebook can crush Twitter. As I said in my post on the network effect, the only way for a smaller player to compete in an area where the network effect is prominent is compete in a way the bigger player can not match. The major difference between Twitter and Facebook status is that Twitter defaults public and Facebook defaults private. Public status has value and Facebook can not compete in the public status arena because it’s entire positioning is around privacy and user control. Defaulting status message to public would undermine this positioning.
Twitter with its public status is the first time its been really easy to find out what people who you don’t know know are thinking. Blogging does reveal what bloggers are thinking but it’s much higher effort to blog so only a amMW subset of people will do it. Plus, even those who blog do not just drop passing thoughts into their blog. With Twitter, tweets about a product being great or awful are much more common since the medium encourages those kind of messages with its 140 character limit. In a tweet, there’s little pressure to say something profound or even meaningful since there’s so little space.
Public status allows for search which is an incredible tool. I’ve personally used Twitter search to do in an hour what would have previously taken weeks and a big check to a market research firm to accomplish. Even just for entertainment, services like Twistori give a view into the thoughts and lives of others that previously was hard to find.
Even if there is plenty of value in consuming tweets, there still have has to be value for the authors. Being a big Twitter fan, I like the easy channel to talk to the world. I get replies from people I don’t know that sometimes contain useful information or are just though provoking. None of this is possible with private status.
I won’t venture a guess as to whether Twitter will be a big financial success. There definitely value for companies to use to as a communication and research tool and if Twitter can extract some of that value, it’s a viable business. However, there’s no feature that Facebook can add that will make Twitter disappear. The public vs. private status distinction creates value for Twitter than Facebook can not grab.