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Meet the new Twitter, same as the old Facebook

Caitlin McGarry | April 14, 2014
Twitter is snagging some of Facebook’s features, but risks losing its personality in the process.

Twitter is making money from mobile with promoted tweets, but the company only gets paid if its users engage with an advertiser's tweet. Twitter saw the potential to make money from app install ads, and last Friday began rolling them out in users' Timelines. The design of the ads slightly irritating—as you see to your right, they take up a lot of room in your feed—but this is the face of mobile advertising going forward. Twitter isn't the only company who realizes that mobile app install ads can be very lucrative. Yahoo is also testing a similar ad format to bring in mobile ad dollars.

Cover-ing your phone's Home
The Android lock screen has the potential to be intelligent and informative. Cover was a little-known startup that figured out how to intuitively display different apps on your lock screen depending on context. Twitter bought the company earlier this week with little hint at how the network plans to use Cover's technology. The Cover team said Twitter "believes in the incredible potential of Android," so it seems likely that Twitter will use Cover to display tweets or other types of information on users' lock screens.

But it's funny: Facebook also believes in the power of Android, so much so that the network already tried to wedge itself onto your lock screen last year with Facebook Home. Home wasn't a complete flop, though Facebook has lifted its best features and put them squarely in Facebook proper. The Cover acquisition seems like Twitter's attempt to succeed where Home faltered, but either way, the whole social network on your lock screen thing has been done before.

Trading places
Consensus among Twitter shareholders, analysts, journalists, and even the company's CEO is that Twitter needs to stop moving so slowly and start making changes. Quickly. But in its new quest to move fast and break things, Twitter is starting to look like a copycat.

Facebook isn't innocent. Over the last year, the company has added a spate of features that Twitter made popular: embedded posts, trending topics, and hashtags chief among them. Facebook seemed to step up its efforts to woo TV advertisers after Twitter's Amplify program started showing results. And history shows that plenty of successful companies crib features from rivals. Samsung and Apple are currently duking it out in court over which features can legally be considered proprietary and which are up for grabs.

Are Facebook and Twitter eventually going to join and complete The Circle? Probably not. The back-and-forth over which company is innovating and which is only reacting will likely continue for years to come. But if in the future we send Facetweets from our Twitbooks, well, I told you so.


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