Last week Facebook added a major new feature that some users had been begging for for months: the ability to syndicate Facebook status updates from Pages to Twitter. The announcement was a departure for the social network, which has long been regarded as something of a blackhole for user data. But Facebook only went half way with this release — it restricted the feature to brands and celebrities with Facebook Pages, leaving out the many millions of Facebook users who only have normal profiles. Some have proposed that it’s only a matter of time before Facebook opens this up to everyone, but we’ve learned this is hardly a sure thing.
From what we’ve been hearing, Facebook is still internally debating if and when they’d release the feature, and they’re going to take their time in making the decision. The reasons for the slow progress are obvious: Facebook only recently began offering the ‘everyone‘ sharing option to users, and it still hasn’t released the privacy overhaul that will promote it. This isn’t good news for anyone hoping for a release in the immediate future, but it also dispels any notion that Facebook has a long-term roadmap that rules out data export entirely. In short, this is something that Facebok has avoided doing until now, and it’s going to dip its toe into these new waters as cautiously as possible.
As I wrote in our last post on the subject, there are a number of reasons why Facebook might consider enabling syndication to Twitter, and why it might hesitate to do so. On the plus side, allowing users to update their Twitter profiles using Facebook would likely turn the latter into the largest Twitter client overnight. And because users would be tweeting many items that are housed on Facebook — including photos, videos, and updates from applications — it could actually lead to a significant boost in traffic.
On the other hand, one of Facebook’s big advantages over Twitter is its huge user base and established community. Making it easier for those users to make the jump over to Twitter probably isn’t an appealing prospect to Facebook. And if Facebook begins handing these updates to Twitter, it could also hurt them in the real-time search race, where Twitter already has a huge lead.
Fortunately, if you’re in a hurry to start broadcasting your Facebook updates to Twitter, you’ve got some options. Today just saw the launch of SocialToo’s new Facebook App which enables this functionality, and you can also use RSS feeds to import your updates.
As an aside, it’s quite interesting that a summer intern at Facebook was responsible for building the Pages->Twitter feature. Not only is Facebook giving its interns some time in the public spotlight, but they’re putting them in charge of functionality that could have major implications for the social network down the line.
Image by Brian Hillegas on Flickr