Archive for February, 2011

What would life be like with Facebook-Twitter, Inc.?

Rumors abound about Twitter considering buyout offers from Google and from Facebook. Wait, check that: Twitter has flatly denied a deal with Google.

What Twitter has not done is deny a deal with Facebook. A deal that rumors say would be worth over $9 billion…especially since Twitter was recently valued at $3 billion without considering competing suitors. Is it notable that Twitter won’t deny a potential deal that would make it a Facebook subsidiary, while denying that it intends to sell to Google?

Plenty of people think it is notable, and even go as far as to say that a Facebook/Twitter deal is “inevitable.” An alternative theory: a case of some very savvy guerrilla negotiations where Twitter purposely denies what’s really happening, while showing Facebook what could have been (via the public reaction).

Let’s assume, though, that a Facebook/Twitter deal is consummated. I’ll call the new mega-social giant Facebook-Twitter, Inc., or FTI for short. The sea change from no formalized “social media” to one giant social monopoly in less than a decade would be stunning. (By the way, a legal study on the anti-trust concerns will be an interesting read and make for lively debate.)

Here’s where I stand. I am not in favor of a world where a private company creates a de facto, neo World Wide Web, where every Netizen would need an account to have a rich online experience. Doesn’t it already bother you that individuals and companies publish Facebook-only content, use Facebook Connect-only web apps, and basically consider you a lesser friend or lesser customer unless you have a “key” to get in? I believe we already need to step away from the Facebook-as-THE-web brink. Ever have a friend think you were dead, or that you’d converted into a technophobic monk or nun, if you didn’t have a Facebook account? Of course, some of the same issues can be raised with Twitter’s domination of micro-blogging and quick, real-time marketing.

Let’s start with the positives of a theoretical consolidation that results in FTI.  It would be a powerful force for social change. It would accelerate the development of the new industries that Facebook and Twitter have created. (Had you ever heard of a social media guru until a few years back? Dreamed of forking over $10 bucks to have someone DELETE your Facebook identity?) It would also accelerate positive changes in the world, because Twitter and Facebook separately have already allowed us to support extremely important causes and revolutions in real-time.

However, there have already been grumblings that the coziness between Microsoft and Facebook (Office integration, Bing search, Windows Phone 7 devices with seamless Facebook integration) has changed the social experience negatively. This comes from the realization that Facebook isn’t your friendly collegiate geek letting you try a nifty new social tool, but rather a behemoth that partners with an even bigger software behemoth, and now may buy a micro-blogging behemoth.

As someone who to this day refuses to have a Facebook account, I could be even more strident in hatred of this potential deal. I’m also a Twitter lover, and wonder what changes the deal would bring to one of my favorite concepts of all time. Worst of all, could a Facebook purchase mean that FB simply absorbs the Twitter staff and kills off the Twitter identity (as has happened with some of its other acquisitions), unlikely as that might seem? However, instead of being afraid or angry about the future of social media, I’m looking at whatever happens in a new light.

I firmly believe it’s time for some competition, not monopolization. Since November, I’ve been helping to craft a new social network. I believe it addresses key complaints of actual Facebook users and Twitter users. I also know that it strikes a great balance between true privacy — of the sort Mark Zuckerberg intended when he visualized The Facebook as being an exclusive Harvard network — and the freedom to explore and connect more freely than the unwashed non-users of Facebook. I believe it is in a perfect market space to excel by having key traits of LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Path, and Namesake.

This major project, supported by a female CEO and great young co-founders, will be in beta very soon. I bring it up because in the face of big companies consolidating all the time, we not only are seeing a world of monumental change and foundational structure, but also one of opportunity. No matter what you think of a world where Facebook-Twitter, Inc. may soon “dominate,” do not ever stop innovating and believing that you have the right to compete to make things better.

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