It’s time to kill Twitter and Facebook
My favorite moment comes toward the end of the interview when Michael asks them if they’re building “a Twitter-killer.”
He pitches it like a joke, but the question is dead serious, and the reaction is priceless.
Google VP of Engineering Vic Gundotra actually shakes his head and says, “Michael, Michael, Michael…”
Arrington doesn’t need my praise, but when a company VP looks over and gives you the gritted teeth hate smile, you know you’ve done something right. Well done, sir.
Arrington’s question goes straight to the heart of people’s fears about Google Wave, but the team insists that they love Twitter and Facebook. They want to position Google Wave as a companion for and an enhancement to existing services, as if the idea of competition had never crossed their minds.
But there’s a subtext here that most people are going to miss. When tech journalists ask companies, “Are you going to kill Twitter and Facebook?” that’s not a question — that’s a request.
It takes the form of a question but what they’re really saying is: Please kill Twitter! Please kill Facebook! Give us something better. Give us something we can control.
Twitter and Facebook have become so popular they’re almost useless. These services have created a whole new category of friendship, a new kind of social obligation that reaches across work and personal boundaries.
I may like my co-workers and enjoy their company, but I don’t really want to read status updates every time their children do something cute. I’ve got a limited amount of time at work and at home, and once you exceed a certain number of contacts, keeping up with Facebook and Twitter can become a full-time job.
I like to keep up with our company Web guru. He shares links that give me column ideas and dispenses all kinds of useful advice. But I don’t necessarily care about how cute his dogs are or what he thinks about Obama’s politics.
But once you add someone on Twitter or Facebook, you get the whole package. People who add me may enjoy reading technology links and reviews of video games, but they don’t necessarily need to read rants about the Gold Standard or snippits from the novel I’ve been writing since 1995.
People who enjoy my work probably don’t give a damn about my personal life and people who know me personally may not give a damn about my work.
Facebook updates from my editor may be a big deal from 8 to 5, but once he hits the golf course, I stop worrying about him and (I hope) he stops worrying about me.
The work/play distinction is hard enough, but how do you decide which friends are relevant to your daily life and which ones are only relevant in the week leading up to a class reunion?
How about the drunk guy who liked my column about Grand Theft Auto and the girl I flirted with because I clicked the wrong name in a chat window?
Is it safe to unfriend these people or am I stuck with them forever, plowing through maudlin text alerts and awkward family photos when all I really want is to see where my co-workers are headed for lunch?
Tech experts are begging Google to kill these services because they know there’s got to be a better way. Give me a way to segregate my work and my home life online. Let me keep high school classmates in my heart and in my rolodex without having to follow their every move. And let me step quietly away from social mistakes without having to explain myself.
It’s 2009 guys. We should have figured this out by now.