Interestingly, I've just discovered that if you use the Twitter application in Facebook, then you can, under certain circumstances, see what your Facebook friends are 'tweeting' even if you aren't 'following' them in Twitter. 'Tweet' is becoming common parlance for a message sent/received via the Twitter system. This is how I think it works (caveat: some of this is conjecture based on flimsy evidence, but however it works, it raises interesting questions): I have a social network on Twitter, which means I've registered my interest in the tweets of some users, and some users have registered interest in my tweets. This activity is called 'following' in Twitter. I also have a social network on Facebook, made up of users whom I have designated as my 'friends' and users who have designated me as their friend. There is a client application for Twitter which can be embedded in Facebook. The Facebook Twitter app can be configured to send notifications to a Facebook user's news feed. The ramifications of this seem quite interesting. Assume I have a Facebook friend called Pete. Although both Pete and I use Twitter, neither of us is following the other. However both of us have installed the Twitter application for Facebook. Within Facebook, I see a notification in my news-feed whenever Pete 'tweets' something (together with the tweet itself), so long as he has used the Twitter client in Facebook to do this. If Pete uses any other Twitter client, I will never know that he has tweeted, or ever see his tweet. Of course, if I only use a non-Facebook Twitter client, I will never see Pete's tweets because Facebook's 'interoperability' with other social networks only extends in one direction. As it stands, in facebook I'll see the following categories of tweets:
- tweets from Facebook friends that I'm following in Twitter
- tweets from people Im following in Twitter but who are not Facebook friends
- tweets from Facebook friends that I'm not following in Twitter, so long as they use the Facebook Twitter client to send their tweet (and so long as they, and I have enabled various options in Facebook).
If I try to consider what this means in terms of my social networks, it means that Facebook offers something of the promise of a union between the sets of users making up my Facebook and Twitter social networks. One of my colleagues argues that this is positive thing - that Facebook is enriching my experience as a user. I disagree - Facebook (with the willing support of Twitter) has just encouraged what was an understandable, though slightly inconvenient situation with different social networks and different clients, to become a potentially very confusing one. If I keep these two sets of users synchronised manually - if I befriend someone in Facebook and then cross over to Twitter and follow them there as well, then I can use Facebook as a client for Twitter and enjoy the convenience of reducing by one the number of separate client tools I must maintain. If I start to 'follow' Pete in Twitter, then it doesn't matter which client I use, I'll receive his tweets in any case. So, does this matter? I think it does - I think this shows Facebook to be disruptive technology - but we knew that already. The question is, what is it disrupting, and is this disruption going to be generally beneficial?