Ever since Google+ emerged, commentators have been trying to work out who is competing with who in the realtime social world. For my money Facebook and Google+ are locking antlers in the identity/ social fight while Twitter has one eye on both in it’s rear view mirror as it happily gets on with developing the news/ information space.
On both Facebook and Google+ it really matters that you are who you say you are. Real identities are at the core of how both companies are monetising or plan to monetise us. Facebook and Google have set themselves up as the arbiters of identity. Twitter on the other hand couldn’t care less who we are. After all, as I’ve always said and, as Kevin Thau Twitter VP for corporate and business development said the other day: "Twitter is for news. Twitter is for content. Twitter is for information." It’s not for ‘socialising’.
Of course both Facebook and Google+ update in realtime like Twitter, and Facebook’s new Ticker is effectively Facebook’s own Twitter but so what? The whole web is going realtime.
There’s something about the simplicity and publicness of Twitter that I find compelling. Also the fact that it’s not really about identity but about the information that flows through it. Whatever socialising occurs does so around information and not as the result of a friendship circle or group. Twitter relies on spheres of constantly morphing ad hoc affinity which spring up out of nowhere and disappear again as quickly as they arrived.
Twitter solves the identity issue by outsourcing the job us. The responsibility of authenticating and deriving trust is thankfully in the hands of the user not Twitter. Twitter helps in a very minor way by having a few ‘verified’ accounts but if, let’s say there are a handful of accounts purporting to be a particular person or source then I like the fact it’s up to us to investigate and make our own decisions on authenticity. These decisions become easier over time as our ever growing list of trusted accounts swells.
Following the money, it’s my identity which is the product on Facebook and Google+ while on Twitter it’s my information which is the product.