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Facebook may not have succeeded in its bid to purchase Twitter last year, but that isn't going to stop them from incorporating Twitter features into its interface.
Starting this week, Facebook users can share their answer to the question "What's on your mind?" with everyone on the internet.
Right now a small number of Facebook users are testing out a new version of Facebook's Publisher feature, which allows users to regulate who sees their status on Facebook.
Leveraging Facebook's privacy features already in place, they're offering the following options for broadcasting status:
- Everyone: Anyone, on or off, of Facebook can see it.
- Friends and Networks: People you have confirmed as friends and people in any school or work networks that you’ve joined can see it.
- Friends of Friends: Anyone who is friends with a friend of yours can see it.
- Friends: Only people you have confirmed as friends can see it.
- Custom: Choose any friend or Friend List to include or exclude from seeing that piece of content.
According to Facebook, “You may have some posts you want to share with a wide audience, such as whom you voted for or how great the weather is today. Other times you may have more personal updates like your new phone number or an invitation to join you at your favorite restaurant for dinner that are meant for only close or nearby friends.”
This is a big landgrab for Twitter territory. The microblogging service is still working out similar features itself. Currently, users can only Twitter to the entire Internet or followers they have approved. Facebook lets users sort out where and when they want people to see individual thoughts.
Facebook engineer Olaoluwa 'Ola' Okelola says that the new feature “gives you the opportunity to answer the question, ‘Who do you want to tell?’ as easily as you answer the question, ‘What's on your mind?’”
Microblogging is not a difficult concept to replicate. If Facebook can get Twitter users to migrate to Facebook for their 140 character needs, they could render Twitter obsolete. But even just also getting Twitter users to publish on Facebook helps their cause.
The utility of catching up with friends online has a shelf life. And services that have previously served that purpose are now gathering dust online (Friendster, Orkut, and the recent difficulties at MySpace come to mind).
Facebook's privacy features are meant to encourage users to depend on the service for more of their online needs. With Facebook Connect, Open Stream API, and its new search feature, Facebook is trying to insert itself in the way people conduct their lives and business online.
By positioning itself as a go to for what's happening online, Facebook hopes to become an indispensible service for people online. And serve them more ads.