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Facebook's redesign appears to target Twitter

March 4, 2009 |  6:39 pm
Britney Spears' Facebook page
Britney Spears' new Facebook fan page.

Starting today, Britney Spears fans are able to get status messages from the pop singer alongside updates from friends. So, that makes us, like, friends now, right?

Facebook has begun rolling out its new "fan pages" to some brands, giving companies, musicians and politicians almost as much power on the site as profile pages.

The company had frowned upon profiles that didn't represent real people, and it limited profiles to 5,000 friends. So many famous people and organizations went with fan pages, which don't have friend limits.

Fan page owners now get the ability to post status updates: the short "what are you doing" messages. Fans can receive micro-messages from personalities or organizations. (Remind you of a certain San Francisco start-up that has the news media all atwitter?)

Facebook showed off the changes as part of its broad redesign, which is rolling out across the site next Wednesday. Some of the changes are cosmetic: Tabs will move to the top of the user's page, with a stronger focus on wall posts and content updates (posted links, blog posts, etc.). But they're also designed to make the News Feed more of a steady stream. The News Feed will be updated in nearly real time with ...

... activities of friends (and fan pages!). Plus, statuses -- along with photos, videos or links -- from both friends and fan pages will appear in users' Facebook streams.

So, what does this all mean for Twitter, which has proved to be a hot marketing tool for companies leveraging the service to reach consumers?

After its talks to acquire Twitter failed, Palo Alto-based Facebook has essentially tailored its website design to replicate one of Twitter's most compelling features. Considering Twitter seems to be basing its revenue model around charging corporate accounts for premium features, it could certainly have profound effects. Twitter did not return e-mails seeking comment.

Regardless of how smart a business move this may be for Facebook, the company will no doubt receive a pile of complaints from users about the redesign, as it has numerous times in the past. Based on the preview of the new Facebook that the company is giving its users, pushback is already filtering in -- on Twitter, no less.

-- Mark Milian

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