A subtle aspect of the redesign, which could make the site far more valuable to users and advertisers, is the ability to see all updates from friends and brands you follow.
This makes Facebook a far more direct competitor to Twitter when people want to know what's happening now.
Many of those updates were previously hidden by Facebook's News Feed algorithm; you'd have to go to individual pages or hunt around in Facebook's interface to make sure you see everything.
At a conference yesterday, Yammer CEO David Sacks said that Twitter had "peeled off the value of public updates" from Facebook. As a result, he said, Facebook and Twitter's relative values were out of whack.
Facebook was worth $80 billion on a fully diluted basis, he estimated. Twitter was recently valued at $10 billion, Sacks noted—he became an investor in the privately held company last year.
That ratio, he said, should be more like 1 to 2 or 1 to 3. (It wasn't clear from his comments if he thought Twitter should be worth more or Facebook should be worth less.)
So Facebook is aiming to recapture a share of attention and a mode of information consumption it has ceded to Twitter—and with it, some of the value Sacks says it's lost.
This is not the first time the companies have battled for consumers' attention to what's happening in the world right now.
In fact, Facebook had first attempted to buy Twitter in 2008, and then copied its stream of real-time updates in a major change to the News Feed in 2009.
That move proved disastrous; Facebook users revolted, and Facebook rolled back the News Feed to the algorithmic selection we see today.
Facebook in 2013 is far different from Facebook in 2009; people post more content and more kinds of it.
And today's changes take advantage of that diversity of content.
The ability to see real-time updates from friends makes Facebook a true social network. Separately, you can see content from brands, publishers, and celebrities—and that's an information network, like Twitter.
And the rise of mobile, where Twitter is strong, lends itself to consumption of quick bites of timely content, where Facebook's new real-time feeds will shine.
There's likely room in the vast world of Internet media consumption for Facebook and Twitter—and Flipboard, and Pocket, and other ways to read updates and news.
But today's News Feed announcement makes clear that Facebook wants to be a player. Right here, right now, battling it out with Twitter for real-time coverage.
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