15 September 2009

Technology: Facebook revamp

Are you Twitter-tired, Facebook-fatigued? Tracing the Tribe is so busy that we just don't log in as much as think we should. Perhaps this information will help.

The New York Times today writes about how Facebook is revamping itself to look more like Twitter.

Unlike Facebook, where friends mutually agree to let one another into their online lives, Twitter lets people share updates and links with anyone who cares to read them.

That has turned Twitter into a tool for people to peer into the collective mind and see what people are talking about in real time. It is also a tool for businesses to reach customers and monitor what their customers are saying about them.

Facebook seems to be very interested in those features. Since last fall, when Facebook tried and failed to acquire Twitter, it has been slowly introducing features that mimic Twitter.

Last week, Facebook added two new, Twitter-like features. Users can now “tag” friends or companies that they mention in status updates, and they can use a pared-down version of the site called Facebook Lite that resembles Twitter’s stream of status updates.
While a Facebook spokesperson says they are making changes to reflect the rapid evolution of how people share online information, others think it is Twitter envy and that Facebook is trying to copy Twitter features.

To tag another Facebook member in a status update, users type the @ symbol before the friend’s name. The @ symbol is a convention that Twitter users started. In response, Twitter added a section on its site where people can see any tweets that mention them. The mentions are hyperlinked so others could click on them to see the subject’s profile page.
Facebook calls this “a common Internet mechanism,” and expects Facebookers to use it more for storytelling.

Although we've always tagged friends in Facebook photos, this capability has not been available for status updates. Now, however, tagged people will receive an e-mail, along with a profile page update and their names will be hyperlinked to their pages.

Facebook says it enables users to “to talk about their real-world connections” and to interact more. Additionally, it will help the tagged (people and businesses) to see what others are saying about them.

What does the future hold? According to the article, Twitter will soon be introducing features to help businesses interact with customers. Facebook already offers special commercial pages and the option of buying ads.

According to a restaurant manager quoted in the story, he's happy and says that when the place is mentioned, friends can go to the company's profile page with a single click and the company will get an email alert. He also believes the new feature will bring people to the site because of the tagged alerts.

Facebook Lite is the other new feature. Its target market is Internet users with slow connection speeds or new users who want to learn about core features. The article calls it "essentially a stream of updates, like Twitter." Photos and comments are included (not on Twitter) but gets rid of a lot of current Facebook homepage static.

Previous changes - I think I really need to log in more often! - have included updating homepages to show real time updates from all friends, allowing brands and "names" to send status updates directly to Twitter, and allowing Twitter users to send tweets to Facebook.

Read the complete story at the link above.

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