11th of September, 2009 – An interesting choice of date, not least because of the symbolic referencing of September 11th and events that occurred in the US back in 2001.
Well it seems that is the choice of ‘date’ that Facebook has decided to wage war on Twitter with, using it as the day that they’ve publicly launched a direct attack to the offering from Twitter.com. Facebook Lite – a cut-down version of Facebook, was officially released somewhere between the 10th of September’s evening, and the morning of the 11th of September, depending on which timezone you’re in.
I only discovered it, after not being able to go back to sleep, having woken up at 4:30am to eat some food before sunrise, as part of my observance of Ramadan. Unable to sleep, I eventually decided I would go online, and was ironically trying to get Facebook to give permission to Qik, to upload some videos from last nights London Twestival. Unfortunately, I wasn’t getting any response from the Facebook Connect URL, and so I thought let me try logging into Facebook directly.
Still no joy. So eventually, as you do, when anything is a bit suspect on the Internet, or in life in general these days, I hopped on over to Twitter’s main search page, to see if anything with the term ‘Facebook’ was trending at all, and was surprised to find ‘Facebook Lite’ as a trending keyword.
Now I’d never heard of Facebook Lite, had no clue what it was, but surprise, surprise, upon reading the ‘Mashable’ article on the ‘Breaking News’ it became clear that something ‘big’ was happening..
If you’re curious to see what’s happened, here’s a few screenshots I caught from the new Facebook Lite pages, in it’s ‘virgin’ stages.. Of course it all might change a few hours from now 😉 And contrary to the Mashable article saying that Facebook Lite was only available in the US, being in the UK, I appeared to be able to access the Lite version of Facebook just fine, though again, that could also change a few hours from now 😉
So far it seems the ‘Lite’ service isn’t fully complete. Most notably when you go to edit any of your settings you’re shown the following:
Some Closing Thoughts
It’ll be interesting to see if this new ‘Facebook Lite’ makes Facebook more accessible, and usable, than before – given that you don’t have all the ‘applications’ clogging up the interface.. Perhaps more people might start using Facebook differently now. Perhaps all the people who migrated to Twitter, might consider taking another look at Facebook? Or maybe, it’ll just stop or at least slow down the mass exodus of people leaving Facebook to join Twitter..
Personally I’m not convinced. I think the inherent nature of Twitter and Facebook are two completely beasts, or animals, and for one to try to tackle the other’s market is foolish at best. Twitter has an inherent strength in making it possible to have many ‘weak’ connections with people, whilst with Facebook, the level of potential visibility into what many people are starting to consider a very personal part of their lives, means that you’re less inclined to want to necessarily broadcast, or share as openly and freely as you might on Twitter.
The ‘Public Broadcast’ approach of Twitter, which means anyone and everyone can see what you’re saying openly and publicly means that people can just start ‘listening’ (i.e. follow you) without there being any real inherent cost or demand from that ear. With Facebook, the very nature of the ‘friending’ relationhships, and the complex levels of privacy, and circles of trust approach means that unless you opt for a completely open, and publicly visible profile, you’re inherently thinking in terms of limited public exposure, and don’t want the whole world to know or see everything that you could possibly have on Facebook. These two extremely different starting points, and different uses for the platforms, means that Facebook will never beat Twitter at Twitter’s game of broadcast and distribution. But what Facebook may be able to do, is ‘sanitise’ the insanity and craziness of the evolving Facebook interface, so that finally we can get a clear snapshot of our personal lives, and the community of people we choose to share that with.
But Facebook, you’re never going to overtake, or beat Twitter. Twitter is inherently in a league of it’s own at the moment. At least until there are more tools and services out there that are created to innately act as ‘broadcast’ tools, and not sharing and community building/strengthening tools which are also needed, to fortify and solidify relationships with more depth and engagement than the weak coupling of Twitter and it’s 140 characters might allow.