Will Twitter integrate Facebook Open Graph?

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By Brittany Darwell

Six years since Twitter founders sent the first tweet, we wonder how the microblogging network might build on Facebook’s Open Graph.

As Facebook encroaches on Twitter’s territory with the subscribe feature and interest lists, Twitter should consider ways to use Facebook’s own platform to protect itself. Early examples from Pinterest and Foursquare show how would-be competitors can benefit by embracing the social network’s tools. Likewise, a Twitter Open Graph app could improve user experience and drive traffic from Facebook back to the microblogging network.

Twitter already has an official Facebook integration that lets users post tweets to their profiles and friends’ News Feeds. It does not share retweets or @replies. An Open Graph app could leverage Ticker, allowing retweets and replies to appear in the lightweight feed and other tweets to show in News Feed. This would be similar to how Spotify publishes individual song listens to Ticker but puts stories about users listening to artists, albums and playlists in News Feed.

Twitter could also create Open Graph actions for following new users, favoriting tweets or creating public lists. Pushing these stories to Ticker would add opportunities for users on Facebook to discover content and conversations on Twitter. Pinterest, for example, says it saw 60 percent more Facebook users visiting its site after only a month of integrating Open Graph.

Open Graph integration would also give tweets a designated place on Facebook Timeline. Twittus is an unofficial app that does this (see right). As Facebook says, Timeline apps are meant to share different aspects of a user’s identity. For many users, Twitter is an important part of that identity.

Timeline provides other benefits, like summaries and navigation by date. Twitter, for example, could highlight how many tweets a person made or how many times they were retweeted in a given month. Facebook’s activity log would also make it easy for users to find past tweets — something that is incredibly tedious on Twitter, just as finding old Facebook posts used to be. (See example from Twittus below.)

Pinterest, Foursquare, Instagram, Spotify and others show that social networks can be built on top of Facebook, or at least drive traffic from Timeline apps. In these cases, Facebook has sidestepped direct competition. For example, the company has downplayed its check-in product in favor of attaching location information to all posts and providing the Places API for others to integrate. It will also eliminate its check-in deals product, leaving opportunity for Yelp and Foursquare. Facebook seems to have put its rumored mobile photos app on hold, giving Instagram room to grow. And despite predictions to the contrary last year, the company did not create its own music service but instead partnered with several others.

In recent months Facebook has been aggressive in pursuing asymmetrical relationships and interest-based connections, which is Twitter’s strength. Facebook is also courting celebrities, getting them set up with Timeline and using them to promote interest lists. The social network continues to give brands and organizations more features for customer service and promotion through pages. All of this hurts Twitter’s competitive advantage. Open Graph integration could ensure that Facebook users remain aware of Twitter and give them reasons to return.