Social networks such as Facebook and Google+ have continued to expand in both popularity and functionality. I am continually amazed by the amount of interactivity that can be accomplished at such sites: I can message, post pictures and videos, let people know what I’m doing and instant message, just to name a few. It’s just so convenient to stay within the walled garden of those sites without having to venture out into the wilds of the internet. Lately, I’ve noticed the increased efforts of Facebook and Google+ to compete with Twitter, offering functionality comparable to that of the adorable blue bird. The attempt to make other social services redundant is obvious, but can Facebook or Google+ kill Twitter by offering a comparable experience? Should they even be trying?
I think it might be wise to simplify the argument by focusing on Facebook. It has the largest user base and definitely the most clout. If there were ever one Social Network to rule them all it would be this giant. It already offers a bunch of services, and will soon roll out many more enabling users to verb whatever they might desire. However, in order to examine the two services and how they compare, we should define exactly what their primary purpose is. Sure, both are social networks and both function as a means to disseminate information, but the type and frequency of that information has a vastly different impact. Facebook is first and foremost a social life hub. A conglomeration of the social actions digitized and placed at a convenient URL. The result is a convenience driven experience that lacks the polish of purpose driven services such as Twitter. Although Twitter may indeed be grouped under the larger umbrella of social network, and however much some users may abuse those 140 characters, its primary purpose is that of news.
I suppose that it all boils down to a quality vs. convenience debate. Sure, the services on Facebook aren’t as robust as they perhaps should be, but they’re there and they work, albeit at a much more restricted pace when compared to their wild counterparts. The problems is that when you combine so many service into one convenient hub, they outcompete each other for your attention. In a sea of photos, video and text, meaningful insight becomes lost in a wash of color, sounds and disconnected words. Even if you were able to group certain friends into a feed dedicated to news, the other media they would be sharing would defeat the purpose of separating them in the first place. Simply put, Facebook is people hub, and Twitter is a news hub. Even if Facebook has functionality that is on par with Twitter, users won’t be able to see through the noise of the social feed to get after it.
The conclusion that can be drawn from this is that this is not a zero-sum game. That somewhat ironically, Facebook’s grip on social actually suffocates it’s ability to go after other, more service-specific platforms such as Twitter. That’s reassuring, because it seems that there is still the impetus to focus on something, and to do it well.