In terms of social media headlines, yesterday was one of those days when people deep into the industry got all, well, a-twitter, and the rest of the media world was probably left wondering what all of the excitement was about. But make no mistake, yesterday was a BIG day, perhaps the biggest in Facebook's ongoing efforts to make sure that Twitter doesn't steal its thunder. First, the headlines; then, an explanation:
- Facebook acquired Friendfeed, an aggregator of social media feeds, for $50 million.
- Facebook also rolled out improved search functionality so that it's easier to search status updates and the like, a popular -- and potentially money-making -- service that until now Twitter has done better.
Of course, the devil is in the details. Friendfeed, until now, has been one of those social media platforms that always seems just on the cusp of breaking into the big time, but never quite does. According to Compete, it has more than 900,000 subscribers and is growing, but it certainly doesn't exhibit the hockey-stick like uptick that we've seen with Facebook or Twitter. If Facebook can figure out how to incorporate this service into the daily social media habits of even some of its millions of users, it will sit atop social media in a much bigger way than it does already. While that's horrible news for MySpace (unless it decides to join into Friendfeed, which it probably should), it's a great potential traffic driver for all of the services that Friendfeed aggregates, and also broadens the conversations you currently see within Facebook into one woven conversation, something Friendfeed and Facebook do, but Twitter doesn't. (For further detail on this, read Ian Schafer's insightful post over at Ad Age's Digital Next blog.)
As for the improved search features, this is aimed squarely at Twitter, but also at Google, which is trying to get on top of the real-time search game. Up until now, Facebook's search features have been limited. Now, users will be able to search status updates, photos and other content over the past 30 days, in addition to getting search results from any user that has made their content public. This puts Facebook on a much more level playing field with Twitter on search (although a higher percentage of Facebook users shield some of their content as do Twitter users, putting a more limited scope on the data.)
Better search is nice for consumers, who may want to remember who it was who wished them a happy birthday two weeks ago, but it is arguably even more valuable to the business world, because it can provide real-time data on what is on the public mind even better than Google. While it's unclear, for the most part, how this data will be used -- as market research or to power ad campaigns -- it makes Facebook's platform even more important than it already is. Don't be surprised if, as the dust on Facebook's moves yesterday settles, those Google buying Twitter rumors start to surface again.
Previous coverage of Facebook and Twitter at BNET Media: