This morning, Inside Facebook posted a great interview with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg about the state of the company. It’s worth reading in its entirety for thoughts about the Platform, Credits, gaming, and the company’s financials. But one thing that caught my eye in particular was his thoughts about Twitter.
Over the past year and a half, Facebook has been under a lot of criticism that it is drifting away from its core service and into a more Twitter-like state, where short status updates rule and all information should be public. When Facebook failed to acquire the company in late 2008, Twitter’s influence on the look and feel of Facebook became more and more apparent. But Zuckerberg says that the time of Twitter infatuation is now over.
“As good as I think they are, I think I personally just paid too much attention to it,” Zuckerberg tells Inside Facebook’s Justin Smith. Why was he so focused on the rival? Their growth rate — it had Facebook worried.
“I looked at their rate and thought if this continues for 12 months or 18 months, then in a year they’re going to be bigger than us,” Zuckerberg says. But he says he was wrong in thinking Twitter’s growth rate would continue in the same way that Facebook’s had. “It just turned out that that their growth rate was kind of unnatural. They got a lot of media attention, and it grew very quickly for a little period of time,” he says.
Twitter’s rate of growth certainly stalled at points in the last year, but it appears to be growing at a healthy clip once again. And Facebook, with its new movement to make more data public, appears to be on a collision course with Twitter once again, as they move to add more features — some of which Facebook has.
But don’t tell Zuckerberg that. “It’s a very nice, simple service. They do one thing really well – that’s powerful,” is his view on them now.
He also notes that they’re different because Twitter’s focus isn’t on using your real identity, as it is on Facebook. To him, Twitter seems to be more about self-expression.
Finally, he tells Smith that watching them is going to be “really interesting over the next few years.” And then, unprompted, he brings up the name of another company Facebook has been rumored to be interested in purchasing — Foursquare.
If Zuckerberg is interested in watching Foursquare over the next few years, maybe we can take that to mean he is no longer interested in owning them. From what we’ve been hearing, Facebook and Foursquare have had a number of discussions over the past few months about possible partnerships and/or an acquisition. Nothing came of those, and Foursquare now seems committed to raising its next round of money, from what we hear.
Facebook, meanwhile, is still at work on its own location offering. “Well, we’re developing something, but nothing [to say] besides that. We want to make sure that we do it well, and we’re taking the time to do that,” Zuckerberg tells Smith.
The latest we’re hearing on that is that Facebook will offer simple check-in functionality on its mobile properties, but the emphasis will be on aggregating other services’ (including Foursquare) check-in data. The key to all of this will be to wrap around Facebook Places, a new local merchant-centric area that should launch fairly soon.
For what it’s worth, Zuckerberg hasn’t updated his Twitter account in over 15 months now. He sent a total of 18 tweets in just over a month of use.