Twitter Facebook Analogy

March 3, 2009

Elad Blog’s “Twitter Is to Facebook as Google Was to Yahoo” is an interesting article. You may want to read it here. I think the idea that Facebook represents an older service and Twitter a newer one is interesting. I am not sure that I agree. Facebook is a step above which strikes me as a variant on a personal Web page service. These have been around for a long time. I think Yahoo bought GeoCities about 10 year ago. The progression in my mind is: GeoCities to and then Facebook. The “social phenomenon” that has some azure chip consultants foaming at the mouth is a consequence of more people using these services and incremental tech jumps that allow a Web page to be hooked into alerts, rich media, and various communication functions.

Twitter, on the other hand, started as a text messaging service and was crafted into a broadcast and follow service. At its core, a tweet is small text which can be created and sent at any time. The notions of mobility, brevity, and a single person’s utterance at a point in time are the text version of the old Nextel push to talk function. In my opinion, the sequence is mobile phone to SMS to Twitter.

Mr. King’s analogy (cited in the Elad Blog but no valid link when I checked) may work for an ex-Googler or Xoogler, but it doesn’t work for me. The next part of the analogy breaks down as well. Yahoo was not a search engine. Yahoo was a directory. Yahoo got into search when someone realized that the slowness, the cost, and headaches of the directory could be complemented and later replaced with a search system. Enter Inktomi. Yahoo has never been much of an innovator. The company bought other companies and allowed those companies to operate as separate entities. Yahoo got into the ad business in the way my mother got into hats. She just bought them, wore a hat once, and then put it in a box. Yahoo never integrated ads across its services. Yahoo bought Overture and never enhanced the service. The rest of Yahoo’s history is a loop  of these basic business methods. Collect, fail to integrate, put on shelf, and move on to the next thing. Here’s the Yahoo progression in my opinion: Yahoo directory to Inktomi search to portal to acquire separate companies to loosely federated conglomerate. Yahoo is not integrated yet.

Google, on the other hand, focused on search. Skipped the portal craziness. Google bought and borrowed, paying Yahoo about $1 billion to make an Overture related legal matter go away prior to the Google IPO. The Google progress, in my opinion, was search to advertising to application platform to information utility.

As a result, there’s not much similarity between Yahoo and Google other than both have offices near one another and both operate online services. Yahoo is fragmented and Google is more homogeneous. Yahoo will have a tough time becoming Google no matter how many Bain consultants scurry around thinking blue chip thoughts.

Despite my objections, I think the analogy is important for three reasons:

First, the analogy was crafted by a Xoogler, and that tells me some folks close to Google understand that Twitter and Facebook have found traction where Googzilla has not. I have pointed out in this Web log that Google seems unable to act with the resolve it demonstrated in the 2004 to 2006 period. Now the company seems to be morphing into a Microsoft style outfit. I think the GOOG is falling behind in real time search. The splash page at is stale compared to what I can find at I am floating the idea now that this failure to respond to real time search is the

Second, the growth curve for Twitter and Facebook are solid. These services do not as yet directly compete if you accept my point of view. Both are vulnerable to a service that fuses the two functions in a useful, interesting way. Right now I don’t see either Facebook or Twitter able to do much more than try to keep up with here and now opportunities. That makes both outfits vulnerable to some extent.

Third, the analogy shows that what once were separate services are, at their core, probably ripe for fusion. These functions–Yahoo grab bag, Google search, Facebook Web pages, and Twitter micro blogs–can be rolled up into one big digital ball. I think that will probably happen. Furthermore, I don’t think any of the companies I just mentioned will be able to pull this off.

Stephen Arnold, March 2, 2009


3 Responses to “Twitter Facebook Analogy”

  1. The Many Faces of Twitter | PureCognition on March 3rd, 2009 10:01 pm

    […] Twitter Facebook Analogy ( […]

  2. Andreas Ringdal on March 4th, 2009 2:13 am

    As someone brilliantly put it
    “Facebook is about people you used to know; Twitter is about people you’d like to know better.”

    Or to rephrase it. Facebook is for what you have done, Twitter is for what you are doing right now.


  3. The End of Second Trimester | My Squirrelly View of Education on March 4th, 2009 12:32 pm

    […] Twitter Facebook Analogy ( […]

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