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The Difference between Twitter and Facebook

The Dangers of Twitter

Today hasn’t been the *best* news day for Twitter, the social media network devote to 140-character updates, and virtual birthplace of ProfHacker. The site’s had performance issues again recently, plus it got cited by the FTC for privacy violations. A newspaper columnist even blamed it for taking down General McChrystal (now *there’s* your performance issue)!

So is there a Twitter backlash coming, as there has been against Facebook? While there have been predictions of Facebook’s demise for almost as long has there has been a site, recent predictions seem more well-reasoned:

Facebook, I believe, and to some extent the idea of social media in general, face a similar dilemma: the more they become everything, the less they mean anything. And when they lose their specific meaning, and with it their specific value, people will come to expect certain functions as normative and standard, and not simply as part of a specific walled garden.

Watching Facebook rush to copy Twitter functionality, geotagging, and every other new feature set (it seems obvious they’re setting themselves up as a future leader in real time web as well – it’s the best explanation of the new default privacy settings), I cannot help but think Zuckerberg’s Nixon moment, his uncomfortable sweating, may be a sign that Facebook’s chariot is already flying a little too close to the sun.

(Amusingly, a Google search returns more results for “the end of Twitter” than “the end of Facebook.” So, while people enjoy predicting the demise of industry giants, it’s still safe money to bet against startups.)

The differences between the two sites, though, are as important any putative similarities. Twitter’s privacy troubles stem from employees’ poor password management skills, which allowed the site to be hacked. Facebook’s privacy difficulties, however, are intrinsic to the site’s business model: It wants to monetize the data gleaned from all the information that users pour into it. And, while Facebook tries to be all things to all people, Twitter still basically just does one thing: It invites you to share something interesting–a comment, a link, or whatever, so long as it fits in 140 characters.

Moreover, while everyone and their grandparents uses Facebook, Twitter is still a niche service. There’s often more . . . patience with the growing pains of a new site, especially one with such a charming failure signal.

If you’re on Twitter, what would it take to make you quit it? What wrongs would they have to commit? If you’re not yet using Twitter, why not? (Yes, there are more social media posts coming.) Let us know in comments.

Image by Flickr user carrotcreative. / Creative Commons licensed

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