Facebook takes on Twitter

13 August 2009

PALO ALTO, California: Facebook, the social network, has launched a new search platform that offers "real time" results from posts and status updates made by its users, a move which is regarded as an effort to take on Twitter, the microblogging service.

An increasing number of major advertisers are now said to have a presence on Facebook, although their strategies for effectively utilising this medium have shown a substantial degree of variation thus far.
From now on, members of the site will be able to search material such as updates, photos, links, videos and "notes" that have been added by their "friends", and on "fan pages" they belong to.

Where users have made material publicly available, this new search tool will apply to "status updates, links and notes, regardless of whether or not you are friends," Akhil Wable wrote on a company blog.

As such, it will enable people to find out everything from their "friends' evening plans" to whether their "favorite news sources feel that the recession is turning around," Wable added.

Most pertinently for marketers, his blog entry emphasised that visitors could look for entries relating to "a company or product to learn what people are saying about that brand."

Earlier this year, Facebook added a "News Feed" to its homepage, and it has also attempted to encourage its users to change their privacy settings so that more information will be open to search by anyone accessing the site.

Jeremiah Owyang, an analyst with Forrester Research, said "Facebook needs to be more of a public site to stay relevant when it comes to Google and Twitter. The more content that is available publicly, the better off Facebook is."

On Monday, the social networking pioneer also announced its acquisition of FriendFeed, a web portal which "offers a fun and interactive way to discover and discuss information among friends" in real time.

Speaking about this deal, Chris Cox, the Palo Alto-based company's director of product, said "Facebook is evolving into a service, not just the destination Facebook.com. FriendFeed has been addressing these problems from day one."

The move follows on from its abortive attempt to buy Twitter for $500 million (€353m; £304m) last year.

Ray Valdes, an analyst with Gartner, argued that Facebook "would love to have bought Twitter, but that didn't happen. So they've been adding features to counter it."

"Twitter had the momentum for a little bit there. But Facebook is taking that back and becoming a one-stop social site," he added.

Data sourced from Financial Times; additional content by WARC staff