I’m sorry. This is yet another post1 on more UX/UI mess that keeps bothering me.
Starting with something I recently started using after 8+ years – Facebook. FB earned a reprieve from the tech press after its change of heart on native smartphone apps. But their Android app is still way below par for what is the primary user interface for vast proportion of their users.
Yesterday, TC broke the story about Google being in talks to acquire Katango. Since Facebook brought out the smart-list update, Google would want to respond and Katanga’s platform might just be an easy ticket.
However, the thought of FB & Katanga’s automatic listing/grouping together of people reminded me of something interesting that LinkedIn had unveiled earlier this year but got lost after an initial spurt of coverage: InMaps.
Isn’t that InMap, with its ‘Professional Networks’ just a smart grouping of my contacts into Circles? Exactly what Google wants to do with Katango and Facebook has already done with smartlists.
That information – professional association networks – is not very valuable to me (I know my professional circles) but possibly a gold mine for LinkedIn and anyone it may want to share it with. Wonder what’s keeping LinkedIn from tapping into this data and providing features like ‘Professional Circles’ – give people a platform to share & discuss within relevant circles – that might help develop LI as a better social network rather than the ‘just a job site’ that it is fast becoming.
Even more, however unlikely, what is preventing LinkedIn from making money from allowing sharing of these network links with either G+ or FB? (Only user initiated, of course). Or refining the algorithms to pro-actively suggest recruits to companies based not just on keyword match, but network affinity of current/past hires as well.
Basically, at a time when both Google & Facebook are using these features to enhance their networks, why is LinkedIn not pushing it? Specially, as far as I know, it was the first to launch the feature.
In this feature war between Facebook & Google+, the consensus amongst industry followers seems to be:
Consumer is clear winner and Twitter is clear loser, everything else is still up for grabs.
Well, I’ll go out on a limb and say that I feel Twitter will be a winnertoo. And my explanation for that is that good old KISS principle works everywhere – in this feature-cluttered fight for social network dominance too. And in that space – for a ‘simple’ social network – there is still no competition for Twitter.
The feature battle between FB and G+ is developing them both into powerful, yet increasingly complex, properties. This is good for users like me and the people I read – we are all technologically adept, willing to trade simplicity & a little time for more powerful features and more control over what we see / read / do.
Yet, that is not what everyone wants. Many, if not most, people just want simplicity.
People like my girlfriend. Her primary network is Twitter – she loves its simplicity in her time-starved life – and the second one is Facebook – because it has an interface she’s familiar with and because that’s where most of her friends & family are, i.e. the network effect.
People like Om Malik, who wrote a short but insightful post earlier today about increasingly feeling social network fatigue and how increasing complexity was adding to it. Twitter should pick up this punch line from his post and use in all their advertisements:
I use Twitter all the time because it is simpler, easier, real-time and always on!
People who Mike Elgan quite nicely categorised here (read that full post, it’s good):
Most Facebook users just want to interact with family and friends. They don’t want to learn anything. They don’t want a more powerful platform. They don’t want Facebook to be more like Google+.
For these people, the increasing complexity of features and controls on Facebook is causing a dissonance.
Why Twitter wins?
Simply because for the first set of people above – like Om and my girlfriend, who are always pressed for time and attention – Twitter provides a clean, single timeline that they can read and update. No likes or +1s, no separate profiles to update, no privacy controls, no circles, groups or smart-lists for sharing, no albums, apps & games. Just one timeline – simple.
The fact that of all three social networks, it is the best integrated and easiest to use on mobile helps it even more.
My hunch is, that for these people who crave simplicity – Twitter will start taking over as their primary social network. Yes, people will still stay on Facebook, many will even join G+ – but Twitter will become their primary network, with cross-posting apps their tool to update the other networks.
And that, will be a big win for Twitter.
Twitter will never be as big and ubiquitous as Facebook already is, or G+ wants to be. Yet, it has a community that is highly involved and committed. These, time-starved individuals, looking for an online community where they can feel comfortable – will not just join it, they’ll love it and commit to it in a manner they never did to Facebook.
Also, though their numbers might be small, these are the people who advertisers value a lot – people with short attention spans but good money to spend. They also happen to be the same people who are hardest to reach through old media TV & print advertisements.
Result: an increase in the ‘quality’ of users on twitter – both from their contribution to the interactions on the network as well as their value to the advertisers. Or in other words – a win for Twitter.