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Facebook goes down and Twitter lights up

Social network crashes during lunch break; users turn to Twitter to vent

Facebook crashed for at least 10 minutes today and then struggled to fully come back online.

When users tried to open or refresh their Facebook pages a little after 12:30 p.m. ET today, they were greeted not with their news feed but with a largely blank screen that simply said, “Sorry, something went wrong. We’re working on it and we’ll get it fixed as soon as we can.”

The site began to come back online around 12:50 p.m., though some users reported still having trouble loading the site until about 1 p.m.
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Facebook did not return a request for information on what caused the problem.

The web site Downrightnow.com reported that Facebook, the world’s largest social network, with 1.49 billion monthly active users, was likely suffering a service disruption.

Frustrated users quickly turned to Twitter to complain about the crash, during what would be lunch break time on the East Coast.

At least Little Caesars was quick to take advantage of the situation, tweeting, “With #facebookdown, make sure to KEEP CALM & STAY CHEESY and then step out and grab a $5 HOT-AND-READY LUNCH COMBO. ;-)”

And others just took the opportunity to have fun with it.

“Is everybody ok? Did something happen? Are the zombies attacking? I’m scared!!! #facebookdown,” tweeted @MootePoints.

And UK Banter tweeted, “How am I meant to judge the people I went to school with now? #FacebookDown.”

 

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Will Facebook envy wreck Twitter?

Twitter has become so obsessed with the users it doesn’t have that it could lose the ones that it does.

There’s never been anything quite like Facebook. As a company, Facebook specializes in collecting, hoarding, keeping and engaging users. As a social network, it dominates the market with the largest user base. Facebook has a monopoly as the social network of choice for friends and families.

As the biggest social network, people often compare Facebook to MySpace. But at its peak in 2008, MySpace maxed out with fewer than 76 million unique monthly visits.

Facebook, we learned this week, boasts just under 1.5 billion monthly unique visitors. Facebook grows so fast in users that it adds more than two additional MySpaces a year to its user base.

Even more impressively, Facebook has 1.8 billion users outside of Facebook itself: 800 million users on WhatsApp, 700 million on Messenger and 300 million on Instagram.

Of course there is a huge and unknown overlap. Still, Facebook’s total active user number is 3.3 billion. That’s a higher number than all the other major social networks combined.

As Facebook proved in its earnings report this week, the opportunities for monetization are enormous. The company has demonstrated that it can make huge revenue in mobile and video ads, and the company is just getting started in those areas. It’s also investing heavily in keeping users glued to Facebook with music and video. They’re getting into commerce. If all that’s not enough, they own Oculus VR, and are likely to be a major force in the coming virtual reality revolution.

The trouble with Twitter
Twitter also announced earnings this week. After the call, the company’s share price dropped to a 52-week low. The reason is that interim CEO Jack Dorsey said the company is lousy at communicating to and thrilling “mainstream” users, and as result, struggles to gain new users. He added that fixing Twitter will take “considerable” time.

Twitter now has 316 million monthly users, up from 308 million in the first quarter. (Twitter is about the size of Instagram, the smallest social network in the Facebook fleet.)

Even more troubling is that Twitter Chief Financial Officer Anthony Noto said during the call that “sustained, meaningful growth” can’t happen until Twitter reaches “the mass market.”

The “mass market” is just Twitter code for “Facebook users.”

Twitter has a serious and obvious case of Facebook envy and, perhaps, is suffering from identity crisis. They want what Facebook’s got, and they’re apparently planning to get it by re-creating Twitter in Facebook’s image.

And that might be a huge mistake.

Twitter was the best Twitter

Twitter gained fans by asserting itself as the hyper-minimalist alternative to all other social networks. It’s beauty and power was the 140-character limit on messages. While that’s hard for people trying to have conversations or express complex ideas, it’s great for followers. They could follow a large number of people and news sources without being overwhelmed.

Twitter is the peace-of-mind social network. You can trust Twitter — what you see is what you get. When you follow someone, you get all their tweets — you don’t have to wonder what you were missing. Facebook, on the other hand delivers by default only a tiny minority of the status updates posted by your friends.

When you’re away from Twitter for a few hours, no worries! There’s no anxiety to find out what you missed. Twitter is all about the now.

Every new tweet from every person you follow appears instantly and reliably at the top of your stream. When it appears, you know that “this is the most recent tweet from everyone I follow.” It feels honest. Users feel in control because there is no secret modifications to their streams. Twitter feels good.

Because of all these attributes, Twitter gained extremely influential users. Nearly every journalist, politician, singer, actor, scholar, scientist and public intellectual seems active on Twitter.

Sure, they’re only as big as Instagram. But the “quality” of the Twitter user base from a fame and influence perspective is second to none. And that’s what sets Twitter apart and makes it unique.

Twitter’s got a good thing. But it looks like they’re getting ready to ruin it.

Twitter will be the worst Facebook
The most unsettling comment during Twitter’s call was from Dorsey. He said that in order to appeal to “mainstream” users, Twitter needs to be more like Facebook and stop serving up tweets in reverse-chronological order. This, he said, would be part of a broader “questioning of our fundamentals” and would “balance recency with relevance.”

Twitter’s “Project Lightning” will use human editors and curators to cobble together cherry-picked content from Twitter accounts you’re not following.

Twitter has already started dabbling in the algorithmic arts. When you’re away for awhile, Twitter now serves up a software-determined subset of the tweets you missed based on a variety of invisible “signals.” The new homepage design went into widespread release Thursday and shows “greatest hits” like tweets from users you don’t follow.

They’re also emphasizing pictures, Vines and videos and even auto-playing videos. They’ve gotten rid of the 140-character limit for direct messages. They’ve packed streams with advertising, promotional design elements (for example, constantly suggesting new people to follow), and Periscope invitations.

The mobile version has a “card” interface, which Twitter copied from Facebook and Facebook copied from Google. It’s also got a new “Twitter ads” button for managing advertising. Many external articles now “auto-expand” to show pictures and part of the article right in your feed.

Twitter last month got a new Facebook-like “birthdays” feature, so you can tweet “Happy Birthday” to people without having known what their birthday was. And you’ll feel obligated to do so.

Both Dorsey and Noto spoke urgently about the need to satisfy investors with user growth and monetization, all based on the need to expand beyond the existing loyal user base.

And this expansion involves re-making Twitter in Facebook’s image.
Whether Twitter’s user base grows fast or not, the company intends to deliver better financials to Wall Street. That means each user will be increasingly bombarded with advertising, including video ads.

How Twitter could lose it all
Twitter used to be special. It had a unique purpose, look, feel and functionality. As a result, it gained a unique user base and became the default social network for public people like celebrities, politicians, journalists and activists. It’s been the network of choice for breaking news as well as important world and entertainment events and commentary.

These qualities are what made Twitter better than Facebook in powerful ways. By copying Facebook and abandoning minimalism in favor of Facebook-like clutter, Twitter risks losing both its uniqueness and its special audience.

If that happens, Twitter won’t be better than Facebook in any way. I fear that Twitter has been led astray by both the pressures of going public and by the winner-takes-all culture of Silicon Valley. Every company has to win every user, and at all costs.

The supreme irony in copying Facebook is that, well, it’s not what Facebook would do. If Facebook felt fear of missing users, it would build or buy an external service to gain those users. Facebook would never fundamentally change what it is to chase users.

If Twitter wants to copy Facebook, it should copy Facebook’s approach to defending itself against rivals. Instead of killing the Twitter that we know and love and re-making it in Facebook’s image, Twitter should launch or buy another service and build a separate Facebook.

By transforming Twitter into a Facebook clone, Twitter is essentially saying it doesn’t want to be Twitter anymore. All I can say is: Be careful what you wish for.


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Posted in: Facebook, Twitter

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Twitter stock jumps on report that CEO is on way out

After reporting slowing growth and getting passed by Instagram in number of users, Twitter’s stock price jumped Tuesday on speculation that CEO Dick Costolo might be leaving the company.

CNBC.com reported Monday that Robert Peck, an analyst at investment bank SunTrust Robinson Humphrey, predicted that Costolo will leave the social network in 2015.

“We think there’s a good chance he’s not there within a year,” Peck said. He also said there are “a lot of interesting candidates” that could take over Twitter’s helm.

Twitter did not respond to a request for comment.

The prediction caused the company’s stock to jump 3.6% Monday, reaching $38.43 a share. On Tuesday, the stock rose to $39.25 and then dropped to $37.79 by mid-afternoon.

Zeus Kerravala, an analyst with ZK Research, said he’s not surprised that interest in Twitter spiked on even speculation that Costolo might be leaving.

“I know there’s a lot of questions about his ability to run Twitter,” Kerravala said. “If the company doesn’t perform well or the company misses a couple of quarters, there will be tremendous investor pressure to oust him. If the company performs, he’s OK.”

Twitter, though it’s increasingly used for political and social protest and company branding, has suffered from slowing growth.

In October, the company reported slower growth in active monthly users than it had in the previous quarter. In the quarter ending in Septembertt September, Twitter’s monthly user base grew by 4.8%, to 284 million users around the world. In the previous quarter, however, the user base grew by 6.3%.

Earlier this month, Twitter received more unsettling news when photo-sharing site Instagram announced that its monthly user base had jumped 50%, taking its base to 300 million users.

With that leap, Instagram surpassed Twitter in number of users.

The company also shuffled several executives this year, with three different heads of product in 2014 alone. Daniel Graf, one of Twitter’s head of products this year, was demoted in November and then left the company in December, according to re/code.

“There appears to be a lot of executives leaving for other companies,” said Patrick Moorhead, an analyst with Moor Insights & Strategy. “Twitter has had a tough time compared to Facebook and that’s what investors are fixated with. I think they’re feeling mounting pressure from shareholders and employees.”

Kerravala said it would help the company if Costolo leaves his top post. “Initially, it would be a good thing,” he added. “But long term, it depends on who they bring in and if the slowing growth at Twitter is leadership related or more structural.”

He added that a lot hinges on the company’s next financial report. “This upcoming earnings call in February will have a lot to do with whether [Costolo] is CEO next year at this time.”

Moorhead, though, isn’t sure that a change in leadership would help Twitter.

“I think Costolo should be given a year under close watch by the board,” he said. “The company is too young and just recently public. The cement needs to dry a while before that makes sense. That is, unless, there are some things going on that people are unaware of. For instance, if the executive team has lost confidence in Costolo, it would be time for him to go, but I just don’t think Twitter is there yet.”


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Useful Twitter search tool

Like other Twitter devotees, I encounter a lot of useful tidbits on Twitter. But while a tool like Tweetdeck allows me to more easily monitor lists of people and subject-specific hashtags I care about, it still relies somewhat on serendipity: that I’ll see what I need when I happen to be monitoring.

But what if I want to search for something specific on Twitter among people I follow? Unfortunately, Twitter’s own advance search page only offers up tweets that are fairly recent — and there’s only an option to narrow by specific accounts, not “my stream.” Tweetdeck lets me search my stream, but only in a limited timeframe. If I want to search tweets from the last few months, you’ll need another tool.

PostPost creates a searchable index of your Twitter stream that lets you look for tweets by term and then filter results by specific Twitter account. You can also narrow tweets based on whether they include links, photos or videos. This can be helpful if you’re trying to find a tweet that you sent last year (“What was that cool mapping site I shared?”) or, even tougher, a useful tweet that you know you saw awhile back, but you can’t remember from whom. Or, perhaps you’re researching a new subject and want to see what some of the smart people you follow on Twitter have had to say about it over the past few months.

PostPost today is touting an additional feature that aims to show you a personalized “trending topics” — just among people you follow. I’m not finding this especially useful, perhaps because my timeline is being flooded by comments about the new iPad. Trust me, I don’t need a tool to tell me the iPad is a “trending topic” among people I follow. And given that my list is weighted toward data-visualization topics, I don’t need PostPost to tell me that “#dataviz” and “Web design” are popping up on my “Timeline Topline.”

This particular feature might be more helpful if your Twitter timeline is somewhat broader subject-wise than mine is. But while I’ll pass on the PostPost Timeline Topline algorithm, I’d still recommend PostPost for its original purpose: finding useful nuggets in your Twitter stream. If you want to look through more of your social networks, Greplin will index multiple sources including LinkedIn, Facebook and Google Docs as well as Twitter. But if you know that you’re just seeking info on Twitter, PostPost is a useful option.

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HP PC Spin-Off Puts Pressure on Microsoft to Nail Windows 8

Hewlett-Packard’s sale or spin-off of its PC business will put pressure on Microsoft to “hit the ball out of the park” with Windows 8, an analyst said today.

Computerworld — Hewlett-Packard’s sale or spin-off of its PC business will put pressure on Microsoft (MSFT) to “hit the ball out of the park” with Windows 8, an analyst said today.

For the short term, then, Microsoft is unlikely to notice any difference in Windows sales.

 

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However, like Miller, Margevicius saw the move as a signal of a troubling trend.

HP will retain the webOS operating system it acquired last year from Palm, but it will halt development and production of any tablets based on webOS.

HP’s webOS-based TouchPad went on sale only a month ago, and several former Palm executives, including former Palm CEO Jon Rubinstein, currently have high positions in HP’s Personal Systems Group.

“HP tried to put the defibulator on its PC business with the TouchPad, but it’s not yielding the kind of results it wanted,” said Margevicius. “The patient isn’t dead, but it’s moved into assisted living.”

Ironically, Miller saw the withdrawal of HP from the tablet hardware business as a win for Microsoft.

HP made it clear that it was betting on its own webOS, rather than Windows 8, for its tablets. By exiting the market, it means that there’s “one less partner” to convince that Windows 8 is the right OS for tablets.

“For Windows 8 to succeed [on tablets] Microsoft needs a partner that’s passionate, and one that will work with Microsoft to make a great tablet,” said Miller.

Both Miller and Margevicius attributed the decision by HP to dump the PC side of its business to the small, fragile margins on Windows-based personal computers.

“This is MBA 101,” said Margevicius. “This part of their business may be attractive from a legacy perspective, but it’s the part of [HP’s] business that generates the least amount of revenue. And HP is run by someone with no strong ties to hardware. [Leo] Apotheker has three things in mind: software, services and support, and not particularly in that order. All those businesses are far more profitable than PCs.”

HP hired Apotheker, a former CEO of German software and support giant SAP, as its president and chief executive in September 2010.

Margevicius said that Dell, the world’s No. 2 PC seller, will likely reap the most benefit from HP’s ridding itself of its PC group. “Dell will be viewed as the vendor that is safe and solid,” he said.


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8 Twitter Facts You May Not Know

Think you know Twitter? These little tidbits may redefine the way you regard the micro-blogging service.

 

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Twitter is an enigma. It’s a relatively simple publishing service built initially on the SMS backbone that has grown into something of a world-wide phenomenon. Over 300 million people around the world use it, and many millions of them live their lives out loud on the service. I’m a dedicated member and somewhat obsessive Tweeter. As such, I thought I knew and understood the service. Yet, even I learned something last week when Twitter CEO Dick Costolo and Founder Jack Dorsey each sat down with Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher at All Things Digital’s D9 conference in southern California. Both described a vibrant service, with a network of connected services generating billions of API requests every single day. At the same time, roughly 50 percent of Twitter access is now coming through Twitter.com, a shift that must please Twitter. Here are some key takeaways from the two Twitter-centric chats MCITP Training.

You Own the Photos
Any photo you post via Twitter’s new photo service is, according to Twitter CEO Dick Costolo, yours and yours alone (just like your Tweets). This is much like other Twitter photos services, such as TwitPic and Yfrog. Each of them, though, reserves the right to redistribute the content you supposedly own. By the way, Mark Zuckerberg can rest easy. Costolo sees no overlap between Twitter photos and the photo albums in Facebook. In fact, the services are apparently not even looking at the same time frame. There are no albums in Twitter’s Photobucket-hosted photo service, and while you could go back and view all the photos posted in a Facebook account, Twitter’s photo stream will be somewhat more limited. As Costolo put it, “Twitter’s past tense is much shorter than other services’ past tense.”


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