I will never forget that quote, from Alta Vista founder Louis Monier, as he bemoaned the devolution of his creation into Yet Another Portal. He was devoted to the idea that Alta Vista would do one thing – search – and do it well. But Alta Vista was instead turned into a bawdy image of Yahoo, AOL, Lycos, Excite, and all the other portals of the late 90s.
And along came Google, which by 2000 had gained a reputation as the Best Search on the Web. And Yahoo, eager to appropriate all things Best on the Web, was more than happy to give Google what Netscape had given Yahoo in the mid 90s: a font row seat to Becoming the Next Big Thing.
This is all a throat clearing to Think Out Loud about Twitter and Facebook. (Like I’ve been doing anything else lately.)
The folks at Facebook are not ignorant of web history. As many of you have noticed, and I have posted about earlier, the relationship between the two companies is not exactly bidirectional. Sure, your tweets can show up as Facebook status updates. But can your Facebook status updates show up as Tweets? Nope.
Why not? Well, if you could use Facebook as an instance of Twitter, well, that would feed the Twitter ecosystem, would it not? It’d validate Twitter and drive Twitter adoption and traffic. Just like Yahoo’s adoption of Google did back in 2000-2002, or Netscape’s adoption of Yahoo did back in the late 1990s.
Facebook has realized it has an ambient awareness problem. And instead of cutting a partnership deal, Facebook first looked to simply buy Twitter. We’ve seen that movie before, a few times – Yahoo tried to buy Google before eventually buying Inktomi and Overture, for example.
Unfortunately, Twitter said thanks, but no thanks. In response (and quite quickly, to its credit), Facebook last week announced, in essence, that if it can’t buy Twitter, it’s going to outcompete it.
But I’m not sure that’s going to work. Why?
Because Twitter is a pencil. Facebook, on the other hand, is Photoshop. There’s so much you can do with it, the pencil function gets lost. It’s not a primary use case. (Yet.)
Back in 1997, Yahoo was a pencil to Netscape’s Photoshop. In 2000, Google was a pencil to Yahoo’s Photoshop. Today, Twitter is a pencil as well.
Will history repeat itself? That, I think, is one of the more interesting questions of the year.
I’m still looking for comparative statistics to help answer that question – the relative size and growth rates of each party at the time of the deals would be really, really interesting. Any researchers out there who want to take a look with me?