mark zuckerberg smiling

No one uses Netscape Navigator anymore because Bill Gates and Microsoft killed it by copying it. Could the same thing happen to Twitter?

After Facebook's busy news day yesterday -- first announcing its $50 million FriendFeed acquisition, then rolling-out real-time search -- it's looking more like it.

If Twitter isn't careful, Facebook could render the still-hot startup irrelevant -- and faster than you think. The competition is real.

In June, we covered the 10 ways Facebook was trying to copy Twitter. We pointed out that in recent months, Facebook added the following features and tactics, cloned straight from Twitter:

  • Status updates visible to everyone
  • Asymmetrical connections between users
  • Vanity URLs
  • Real-time updates
  • Pushing updates over SMS
  • Real-time search of shared news
  • Promoting and courting celebrities
  • Live event coverage
  • Follow companies the same as friends
  • Unlimited connections

Even then, we still wondered how serious the Twitter-Facebook competition actually was. Did executives at both startups really view the world of status-updating and links-sharing as a zero-sum game?

But then TechCrunch landed 300 pages of internal Twitter documents and we wondered no more. One document had minutes from a meeting Twitter execs held on the subject "How could Facebook kill us?" What's scary for Twitter was that everything they came up with that Facebook could do to kill Twitter, Facebook has since done.

After reading the document, we emailed a source close to Facebook. "They're scared," we wrote. "They should be," said the source.

We agree, and for three reasons

  • Facebook's userbase is at least ten times larger than Twitter's
  • Facebook is already making a lot of money -- about $550 million this year. Twitter makes almost none.
  • With those revenues, a recent $200 million fundraising, and 900 employees, Facebook has far more resources than Twitter.

What to look for next: Facebook taking on Twitter's mobile advantage.

The biggest advantage for Twitter right now is that it is a much better mobile experience for users than Facebook. But rest assured, Mark Zuckerberg and company are actively trying to challenge that status quo.

Here's how:

  • Launching a new Facebook app for the iPhone. It's "pretty much done," according to one Facebook developer's Twitter updates.
  • Launching a new Facebook app for Android. Teens don't use Twitter. But along with Facebook, teens do use cheap smartphones -- the kind Motorola plans to load with Google's Android OS. That's why Facebook is finishing up its Android app right now.
  • Opening its API even more to third-party developers. Twitter is so good on mobile because third-party developers have built such great apps for mobile devices. There's no Tweetie, Twitterfon or Twitterrific for Facebook. Facebook recently extended its API in hopes of inspiring developers to change that.
  • Developing its own Twitter application.  Mashable recently spotted a Facebook developer updating Twitter through something called Penguin FB, hosted on If Facebook can create an app that's the best way to use Twitter, it's game over, isn't it?