Facebook just announced something that is going to shake through the whole social media scene and could just wipe Twitter off the map....they have added the ability to @reply your friends. Facebook (who recently got to fairly late stage discussions about acquiring Twitter) are very keen to get into the "real time" space and have made tentative steps but nobody at all had predicted they would roll this out especially so soon after acquiring Friendfeed. There is more on how the system will actually work below but here are some of the incredible advantages that this will bring.....
While it is embraced by those avid users, Twitters reach is still unarguably small, compared to Facebook. Facebook currently has over 250 million active users, compared to 50 million on Twitter. If you want to have a conversation with someone you know, the chances are they're on Facebook. On Twitter, you're restricted to those that you 'know' on that platform.
Facebook will increasingly become ever more appealing to businesses. The introduction of the @reply combined with the recent functionality to search through people's public updates makes for an appealing option to those looking to engage with people based on certain interests. The fact that businesses on Facebook show off content on their fan pages rather than trying to "target" consumers directly on twitter makes it a more business friendly option
No character limit. While the 140 character limit is admittedly a big part of Twitter's charm, it is ultimately restricting. In Facebook, your message can be as long, or as short, as you want.
Rich media inline
The beauty of the @reply with Facebook, is that it's easily integrated with the other functionality on the site, including photo and video. If you want to share a picture on Twitter, you have to use a third party app such as Tweetdeck or YFrog . In Facebook, this is all done under one platform. You could upload a video for example, post it through your status update and include names of particular friends you want to share it with.
Goodbye to spam
Within Facebook's new @reply you are still restricted to those that you are already friends with, unlike Twitter. The reply works by presenting a drop-down list of friends' names. While some may see this as restrictive, it presents an attractive option to those that are tired of 'spambots' on Twitter, which seem to be increasingly plaguing the microblogging site.
How does it work
Well according to the Facebook blog...
Now, when you are writing a status update and want to add a friend's name to something you are posting, just include the "@" symbol beforehand. As you type the name of what you would like to reference, a drop-down menu will appear that allows you to choose from your list of friends and other connections, including groups, events, applications and Pages. Soon, you'll be able to tag friends from applications as well. The "@" symbol will not be displayed in the published status update or post after you've added your tags.
Anecdotal evidence was already starting to suggest that twitter users had been using the service in a different way recently anyway with a huge influx of brands targeting potential customers and most people using the service to find good content and quality links and indeed we were just about to write a post when this broke about how users are getting fatigue of the service and struggling to find new followers due to the sheer noise. Just look at the response when I asked this morning if users were still following new people, hardly enthusiastic...
All in all Twitter is still a great service but the rich media elements of Facebook, steady infrastructure and huge numbers of securely connected people will make Facebook the overall winner and make the guys over at Twitter wish they had cashed out around about the time that Oprah made her brief appearance on the service!