Facebook Lite: Facebook releases beta Twitter

Ronny Kerr · August 12, 2009 · Short URL: https://vator.tv/n/9ed

Beta release of Facebook Lite immediately after FriendFeed purchase affirms aim to emulate Twitter

This week is going to be remembered as the first week that Facebook really started to try to be Twitter.

Facebook in Twitter-style logoFollowing Twitter’s popular explosion in early 2009, Facebook quickly began emulating some of Twitter’s key features, like emphasis on status updates and more public content, culminating in Monday’s announcement of the implementation of real-time search. On that same day, blogs and media were abuzz with the news that Facebook had purchased social-sharing aggregator FriendFeed. And now, this little something started popping up on some users’ home pages last night:

You have been selected as a beta tester for Facebook Lite!

We are building a faster, simpler version of Facebook that we call Facebook Lite. It’s not finished yet and we have plenty of kinks to work out, but we would love to get your feedback on what we have built so far.

Check out Facebook Lite now at https://lite.facebook.com.

If Facebook’s nearly $50 million combination cash and stock purchase of FriendFeed didn’t make Twitter want to keep a closer eye on Facebook than ever before, Facebook Lite should do the trick.

Though many users are reporting on Twitter that literally nothing happens when they accept the invitation to try out Facebook Lite, screenshots of the service have already started to trickle in from the users that have indeed gotten it to work.
Facebook Lite
Basically, right now it appears to be a news feed exclusively for status updates. Like regular status updates on Facebook, users can comment on the updates, something that Twitter does not yet have implemented. Furthermore, it seems that users can either just write something (no word on if Facebook is going to copy Twitter’s SMS-inspired 140-character limit), post photos, or post videos. Navigating away from the wall/feed will bring users to a (likely limited) profile, friends list, or photos/videos page.

When we reported about Facebook’s acquisition of FriendFeed, we asserted multiple times that the purchase sent a very clear and competitive message to Twitter. The stage for a serious battle was set.

With Facebook so quickly rolling out, even in beta, a service that so far looks to be an incredibly transparent emulation of Twitter on the Facebook platform (with the exception of the ability to comment on updates), we just went from setting the stage to starting the fight in about 24 hours.

This story will be updated if either Facebook or Twitter officially responds to the new service.

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What is Twitter?

Twitter is an online information network that allows anyone with an account to post 140 character messages, called tweets. It is free to sign up. Users then follow other accounts which they are interested in, and view the tweets of everyone they follow in their "timeline." Most Twitter accounts are public, where one does not need to approve a request to follow, or need to follow back. This makes Twitter a powerful "one to many" broadcast platform where individuals, companies or organizations can reach millions of followers with a single message. Twitter is accessible from Twitter.com, our mobile website, SMS, our mobile apps for iPhone, Android, Blackberry, our iPad application, or 3rd party clients built by outside developers using our API. Twitter accounts can also be private, where the owner must approve follower requests. 

Where did the idea for Twitter come from?

Twitter started as an internal project within the podcasting company Odeo. Jack Dorsey, and engineer, had long been interested in status updates. Jack developed the idea, along with Biz Stone, and the first prototype was built in two weeks in March 2006 and launched publicly in August of 2006. The service grew popular very quickly and it soon made sense for Twitter to move outside of Odea. In May 2007, Twitter Inc was founded.

How is Twitter built?

Our engineering team works with a web application framework called Ruby on Rails. We all work on Apple computers except for testing purposes. 

We built Twitter using Ruby on Rails because it allows us to work quickly and easily--our team likes to deploy features and changes multiple times per day. Rails provides skeleton code frameworks so we don't have to re-invent the wheel every time we want to add something simple like a sign in form or a picture upload feature.

How do you make money from Twitter?

There are a few ways that Twitter makes money. We have licensing deals in place with Google, Yahoo!, and Microsoft's Bing to give them access to the "firehose" - a stream of tweets so that they can more easily incorporate those tweets into their search results.

In Summer 2010, we launched our Promoted Tweets product. Promoted Tweets are a special kind of tweet which appear at the top of search results within Twitter.com, if a company has bid on that keyword. Unlike search results in search engines, Promoted Tweets are normal tweets from a business, so they are as interactive as any other tweet - you can @reply, favorite or retweet a Promoted Tweet. 

At the same time, we launched Promoted Trends, where companies can place a trend (clearly marked Promoted) within Twitter's Trending Topics. These are especially effective for upcoming launches, like a movie or album release.

Lastly, we started a Twitter account called @earlybird where we partner with other companies to provide users with a special, short-term deal. For example, we partnered with Virgin America for a special day of fares on Virginamerica.com that were only accessible through the link in the @earlybird tweet.


What's next for Twitter?

We continue to focus on building a product that provides value for users. 

We're building Twitter, Inc into a successful, revenue-generating company that attracts world-class talent with an inspiring culture and attitude towards doing business.