According to a fascinating interview with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg this week on Inside Facebook (Discussing the Future of Facebook and the Facebook Ecosystem with CEO Mark Zuckerberg), Facebook admits that they may have focused too much on trying to emulate Twitter, the fast-growing microblogging platform, when formulating their strategies and plans for the future.
In the interview, which touched on numerous topics including the future of social gaming on Facebook, Zuckerberg's plans for the Facebook Credits payment system, and Facebook's current financials, Zuckerberg admitted that he personally had "paid too much attention" to Twitter over the course of the past few years. According to Zuckerberg:
"At first I think we learned that they do a lot of things really well. It’s a very nice, simple service. They do one thing really well – that’s powerful.
"I think the main thing was we looked at their growth rate and – well, we saw our exponential growth rate continue for a very long period of time, and it still does at a super-linear rate, though not quite 3% a week any more. I looked at their rate and thought if this continues for 12 months or 18 months, then in a year they’re going to be bigger than us. I guess I extrapolated too much from our own experience of what was possible, but it just turned out that that their growth rate was kind of unnatural."
Zuckerberg is certainly correct when he says that Twitter's growth rate wasn't sustainable - and he isn't even mentioning the fact that a significant portion of Twitter's massive growth rate came either from spammers who create hundreds of accounts at a time, or from people who try the service, use it for a few days, and then quit. The latter group accounts for a significant proportion of new Twitter accounts.
To say that Zuckerberg "paid too much attention" to Twitter is a bit of an understatement. Over the last two years, Facebook has taken significant steps toward emulating Twitter's functionality, most notably pushing their once-private social network towards a more public system, notably "recommending" to users during privacy overhauls that they expose much of the private information that they had previously held back.
From the tone of Zuckerberg's comments, and considering the new direction that Facebook appears to be taking (namely paying too much attention to Foursquare and other locational "check in" services), it seems that the Facebook founder's obsession with microblogging is waning. What that bodes for the future of the world's largest social network is unclear, but one thing you can count on is that although Zuckerberg might not be focusing too closely on Twitter, he's definitely still got his eyes on it.