Every week it seems like there’s another Twitter application that comes out that does analysis of all the tweets that have passed through the system. Whether it’s the countless leader boards, friend finding tools, or other tools such as those that spam your inbox with messages, there are TONS of applications. Facebook on the other hand, has provided developers with a way to access user information on a case by case basis. User’s must grant you access to their information before you can view their details.
While the company continues to experience phenomenal growth, there is little information that can be accessed with out a user’s permission. Right now a call to Facebook’s Users.getInfo API call will return the user’s name, regional networks, profile picture, and profile URL. The one thing that it doesn’t return is a user’s status update. Overnight if Facebook added status to this method, Twitter would be destroyed.
Why would developers build for a platform that has only a few million users when they can build identical tools for over 140 or 150 million users? Yes, Facebook can keep the statuses private, and all comment replies as well and they’ll continue their phenomenal growth rate. They clearly don’t have the development resources though to build tools around their status updates internally. If Facebook opened up statuses tomorrow, Twitter would essentially become a ghost town.
I currently receive just as many if not more comment on my Facebook profile than I receive replies to my Twitter status updates. I should add that there is one flaw in this theory: Facebook’s 5,000 friend limit. Much of Twitter’s value is preached by their super users who have thousands of followers. Without these super users, Twitter wouldn’t get as much buzz.
The 5,000 friend limit issue isn’t really that big of a problem when looking at the whole picture though. On Twitter there are only 448 users with more than 5,000 followers according to Twitterholic. That means there will be less than 500 people complaining about Facebook’s friend limit if they opened up status updates to the public.
Opening up this simple API feature would also save the company a reported $500 million in stock options that they were going to pay out to Twitter Twitter. Facebook: please open up status updates. Developers will thank you, and I think you’ll be happy that you saved yourself $500 million.