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Intelligent Machines

Is Facebook About to Kill Off Twitter?

Twitter is struggling to grow, its executives are leaving in droves, and now Facebook looks to be muscling in on its turf.

Twitter’s stock price has been tumbling for months, and CEO Jack Dorsey announced this week that several of its highest-ranking executives are fleeing. The deepest concern, though, isn’t about corporate machinations—it seems that the product itself simply isn’t as compelling as Facebook. Walt Mossberg, one of the better-known tech pundits anywhere, said Twitter had become way too complicated to use and called it “secret-handshake software” that only people who invest huge amounts of time can get full benefit from.

Twitter headquarters in San Francisco. Slow growth and competition from Facebook threaten the company.

Dorsey has talked about wanting to turn Twitter into a service that’s as “easy as looking out the window to see what’s happening.” But Ben Thompson at Stratechery argues that that by failing to evolve way back in 2009—before Facebook had grown into a service that a large fraction of Earth’s population uses at least once a month—Twitter missed its chance. Facebook is simply too big and too good at presenting readers with interesting information for Twitter to have any shot at stealing users away from the big blue “f.”

To make matters worse, Facebook now appears to be directly targeting Twitter’s core business. During Facebook’s earnings call on Wednesday, COO Sheryl Sandberg said the company plans to invest heavily in “real-time sharing”—the one thing that Twitter does better than Facebook. Sports events, political discussions, and any other kind of in-the-moment interactions amongst users are what Facebook sees as a big growth area going forward. For Twitter, whose 320 million users appear paltry beside Facebook’s nearly 1.6 billion, it’s not clear that even a major reinvention can get the company back on the growth track.

(Sources: Reuters, Recode, Business Insider, Stratechery)

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