The two social media companies are highly competitive, even though one is currently worth $308 billion, has 1.6 billion users, and dominates digital advertising. The other, worth $12 billion, is in the middle of a difficult, messy turnaround with a part-time CEO.
Problems aside, Twitter has a couple of things Facebook doesn’t: It’s fast-moving, it’s live, and it’s public. News breaks on Twitter. Trump spars on Twitter. People watch sports and the Oscars in tandem with Twitter. As I wrote in a recent Fortune feature story about Twitter’s turnaround:
Facebook is trying to change that. The company’s “trending” tab now curates breaking news (even apparently omitting mentions of Twitter when the news breaks there).
But most notably, Facebook is pushing hard into Live video. It has prioritized live video streams in its “News Feed,” sending users so many alerts that they’re starting to feel annoyed while sending broadcasters so many viewers they’re likely to keep livestreaming. Facebook is even paying media organizations (including Fortune parent company Time Inc.) to produce live videos.
Facebook Live directly competes with Periscope, Twitter’s livestreaming video app. Twitter acquired Periscope last year, and many view the deal as a success. On Twitter’s first quarter earnings call Tuesday, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey responded to a question about the threat from Facebook. Here’s his answer (as best as I could transcribe):
It’s true that Twitter has a lead when it comes to “live,” but that lead isn’t guaranteed to last. Facebook may not be able to imitate the speed and immediacy of Twitter, but with 1.6 billion users, even a “good enough” product is a viable threat.